Seventy-five years ago, on August 22, 1945, the Newport Municipal Airport was officially dedicated. The day was sunny, and crowds were estimated to be around 7500. Through the hard work and cooperation of many people the airport for the City of Newport came to fruition. Former Mayor O.S. Searles, who had taken an interest in aviation, received the most credit. However, he always shared the credit with Senator George Aiken who at that time was Governor of Vermont.
The organization of the Orleans County Development Association was the impetus to draw up the plans for the airport. In 1939 the dedicated group of individuals voted to investigate the possibility of a county airport and locate an adequate site based on a survey of the entire county. The association formed a committee with O.S. Searles as the chairman to work on the proposal. While this was occurring the state planning board became interested in the proposal. Governor Aiken had also appointed Mr. Searles to the state planning board which certainly was an asset. With an anticipated time delay to fully implement the project, a movement was started in Newport City to solely fund its implementation.
After a detailed survey of Orleans County, a decision was made to select the present site in the Town of Coventry since it was the most viable option. Development came rapidly as the Civil Aeronautics Administration in Washington D.C. approved the location and allocated $394,000 towards the initial tree removal runway construction. The money was to be allocated to Newport if the city would purchase the land. At a city meeting, held in September 1941, a vote was held to purchase the land for $35,000. This included ten farms totaling around 1200 acres at an elevation of 930 overlooking the city. The State of Vermont contributed $8,000 towards the project and additional funding from the CAA brought the total cost to around $1,000,000. The airport was declared completed in the spring of 1944 after weather delays and war conditions.
By the summer of 1955 a new administration building was built to provide offices for airlines, radio, weather and other services. Also, at this time a radio navigation transmitter was installed which transmitted the code EFK 24 hours a day for aircraft, within 40 miles of the airport, equipped with ADF. During the late 50s and 60s commercial airline service occurred at the airport.
Over the year’s improvements were being made at the airport and in 1962 the installation of runway lights was completed as part of a state-municipality project. In March 1967 the Newport City voters approved the sale of the airport to the State of Vermont under the Regional Airport Plan which called for the state to take over all major airports for further industrial, commercial, and recreational development. The state continued to maintain the airport and in 1984 a major repaving and reconstruction of the field occurred. This including a new runway lighting system, beacon, and expanded ramp area. A 4800 square foot hangar for aircraft storage was constructed joining the pre-existing 2400 square foot hangar built in 1965. Additional hangars have been constructed which house private aircraft.
The State of Vermont announced in January 2012 its intention to see Federal approval for the expansion of the airport. The expansion would include increasing runway 18-36 by 1000 feet, expanded water and sewer services, new terminal, services from U.S. Customs and Border protection. In 2015 the airport was renamed from Newport State to Northeast Kingdom International Airport and the name change was accepted by the FAA in 2017. The runway, taxiway, and other facility upgrades were completed in 2017.
Below is a short video of the airport dedication. Although there is no audio, it is fun to watch and to see the crowds of people along with the different aircraft present on that day.