Reinvention and looking toward the future are the watchwords for welcoming a new year. One of our newest additions to the collection – this Dubuque Regional Airport decal - stood out as an opportunity to celebrate taking off into 2023. It is a time capsule of history (from a 1992 funding campaign) that uses a promotional message of growth still relevant today, “Fly Dubuque”. Coming a long way from a single sod runway, airport service in Dubuque has a storied past of ups and downs.
Beginning in 1928, the first airport designated for use was built over the swampland of Nutwood Park. Both this location and its successor on City Island (Ham’s Island) faced yearly floods from the Mississippi River, sometimes losing full months of service due to the water surge. Facing unreliable weather conditions and lacking consistent care, airport service in Dubuque did not modernize until after World War II. In 1948, the Dubuque Municipal Airport started services off U.S. 61, building the first terminal on high ground.
Growth spurts hit the airport every decade as commercial service came and went from companies like Ozark Air Lines, Mississippi Valley Airlines (later United Express), American Central Airlines and more. The 1980s saw the first major reinvention of the airport rebranding as the Dubuque Regional Airport and remodeling its terminal. In the 1990s, the airport held a national record for meeting consistent safety standards and operated a steady stream of service from three carriers. Then the early 2010s saw the airport triple in size to accommodate its standing as the second busiest airport in Iowa. The prognosis for the future seemed good but there are always unknowns. Most recently, the airport experienced another change when its sole carrier ceased operations, which stopped commercial flights for the latter part of 2022. A new carrier begins service in January. The question of “what’s next” faces us all as we look forward to 2023.