On November 3, 1947, Kanawha Airport was dedicated on Coonskin Ridge near Charleston. World War I ace Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was among those present. The massive earth-moving and mountain-leveling project had taken three years to complete.
The airport’s terminal building was finished in 1950, and an addition was built in 1970. A runway-extension project was completed a year later, allowing the airport to accommodate jet airliners. Other renovations have occurred periodically over the years.
In the 1970s, the airport was the site of two strange aviation incidents. In 1971, a former Boone County coal miner hijacked a plane from Kanawha and demanded to be taken to Israel. He was later apprehended at Dulles Airport near Washington. Eight years later, a cargo plane carrying 12 tons of marijuana plunged over the airport’s hillside. Looters made off with much of the marijuana before law enforcement could secure the area.
Kanawha Airport is now named Yeager Airport in honor of Brigadier General Chuck Yeager, a native of Lincoln County and the first aviator to break the sound barrier. The terminal is named for former U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller.