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.