There is so much more to the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) than what you see as you wait in security lines or dash through the terminal, beyond the rocking chairs and golf attire, Gamecock gear, travel pillows and South Carolina snowglobes. CAE has a long and storied history of service to the Midlands community.
Columbia Metropolitan Airport began in the early 1940s as the Lexington County Airport, until the U.S. War Department acquired it for use during World War II. The airport was then expanded to include runways, hangars, roads, barracks, a church, officer’s quarters, and other facilities, and renamed the Columbia Army Air Base (CAAB). There, the Army’s B-25 bomber aircrews would train for missions. In 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Jimmy Doolittle, a legendary military aviator, traveled to Columbia and asked for volunteers for a secret military mission that was to become the famous Doolittle Raid over Tokyo. When the war ended, CAAB was sold back to Lexington County. The City of Columbia constructed a new terminal building in the early 1950s that burned down. The present terminal opened in 1965, and a major renovation was completed in 1997. There are historic markers at the airport for CAAB, the 319th Bombardment Group, the 310th, 321st and 340th Bombardment Groups, and for The Doolittle Raiders. This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid.
Today, the airport is engaged in various projects to make both airline passengers and our military have the best experience possible when flying: CAE’s Department of Public Safety provides a safe and peaceful environment through law enforcement and fire rescue services; the airport’s ECOprojects include ecologically-friendly and economical construction projects to upgrade airport facilities; the rotating arts program adds beauty and local flavor to the terminal; CAE is working with therapy dogs through Therapy Dogs Inc. to make airport and travel experiences less stressful, by putting smiles on travelers’ faces and calming the nerves of new Army recruits that arrive for basic training at Fort Jackson; and the airport’s staffed USO Center welcomes hundreds of new recruits each week. The USO slogan is, “Be the Force Behind the Forces”, and they do this by providing drinks, snacks, toiletries, computers, complimentary WiFi, TV, video games, relaxation and sleep areas, and more for our traveling servicemen and women. CAE also participated in the Honor Flights for WWII Veterans from South Carolina to Washington D.C.
Columbia Metropolitan Airport offers more than 30 daily non-stop flights, serves five major American airlines and has connections to nine large US cities. It is self-sufficient and does not receive any state or local tax dollars, but generates around $847 million for South Carolina. Over 40 businesses operate on the airport’s campus and create over 1,800 full time jobs. Just recently, the airport celebrated five consecutive years of growth, with statistics for 2016 indicating that airport traffic is up and airfares are down. “If you have ever flown to or from Columbia Metropolitan, you know it is a world-class airport that does so much for our state, our citizens and our military family. Our community of homes at Harvest Glen is located a mere 10 minutes from takeoff to anywhere in the world!” – Wade McGuinn, CEO