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During World War II when the United States' rapidly expanding air force required the establishment of more land facilities, the federal government selected a site near Mt. Alton in McKean County for an emergency landing field.
Land was cleared and runways built, but the war ended before the field was commissioned. With the surrender of Germany and Japan, the new airfield became a surplus item and, during the mayoralty term of Dr. Hugh J. Ryan, the City of Bradford purchased it from the Army Air Corps. Ralph T. Zook was the prime mover in establishing this airport facility.
Passenger service was inaugurated as early as September of 1948, but the terminal was not completed and officially opened until July 1, 1949. The first commercial service was provided by United Air Lines. Shortly after its incorporation, Allegheny Airlines took over passenger service at the airport, a job it still performs.
Private individuals and industries joined the City of Bradford in preparing the airport to serve as a commerical terminal and in its early operations. After a short time it became evident that airport costs were too large for the city alone and McKean County joined in its operation. The airport became known as Bradford-McKean Airport.
With the proposal of a major improvement project in 1967, the local share of the cost indicated a need for an even larger base of tax support. At the suggestion of the Federal Aviation Administration, it became a four-county regional airport by an Authority composed of McKean, Warren, Elk and Cameron Counties. It was renamed Bradford Regional Airport.
The history of the airport at Mt. Alton generally parallels the emergence of air transport to its current preeminence. In less than 30 years it has undergone a metamorphosis - first a military installation, then a city and county airport and now a regional source.
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