In 1926, the first municipal airport in Boise was built on a
gravel bed where the Boise State University campus now stands. The
first commercial airmail flight in the United States passed through
this airfield on April 26, 1926, carried by Varney Airlines. Four
years later, Varney, which would become United Airlines, began
hauling passengers from Boise…four at a time.
United is recognized as the airline that has operated the
longest out of Boise, 80 years as of 2006. This airfield also
played host to Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis
on September 4, 1927.
The current airport has its origins in 1936 when Boise began
buying and leasing land for the airport. By 1938, Boise had the
longest runway in the United States at that time, 8,800 feet (2,680
m). The steel hangar for Varney Airlines was moved to the present
field in 1939. As the size of aircraft grew, the hangar was no
longer able to hold aircraft and was converted into a passenger
terminal. It was part of the modern terminal facility until the
completion of the new terminal in 2004.
During World War II, the Army Air Corps leased the field for use
as a training base for B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator
bomber crews. More than 6,000 men were stationed there during the
War as part of the 303 Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, including
actor Jimmy Stewart who trained at Gowen Field.
In 1946 the field was turned over to the City of Boise which
subsequently formed the Boise Department of Aviation and Public
United Airlines was the first to bring jet service to Boise in
1964, flying Boeing 727's. The first concourse was built at
the airport in 1969 at a cost of $1.5 million thanks to a
voter-approved bond measure. A decade later, in 1979, the second
concourse was built with the help of a $7 million voter-approved
Boise Airport became home to the Boise Interagency Fire Center
in 1968, which was created by a convergence of the Bureau of Land
Management, U.S. Forest Services and National Weather Service
firefighting operations. Other Agencies joined BIFC and the name
was changed in 1993 to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Southwest Airlines began serving the market in 1994. Boise
Airport serves as a focus city for Horizon Air. In 2003, the
current Terminal expansion was completed at a cost of $108