A History of Omaha’s Eppley Airfield

Eppley Airfield, North Omaha, Nebraska

Over almost a century, a small rural landing strip became an international airport that attracts interest and business from across the nation and around the world. The airport didn’t build fast though; instead, its been a gradual process that has well-positioned it to grow with Omaha’s needs into the future. This is a history of Eppley Airfield.

Landing in a Field

In 1925, the City of Omaha acquired 200 acres east of Carter Lake for use as an addition to the Levi Carter Park. Mostly clear of trees and level, air planes started using the field there almost immediately.

Eppley Airfield, North Omaha, Nebraska
“Plane view of Municipal Landing Field” comes from a 1925 edition of the Omaha World-Herald.

In 1927 a lawsuit tried to prevent the land from usage as an airport. However, the judge ruled against that restriction, and the City declared the area as the new Municipal Airport and hangars were immediately built. An American Legion gathering in Omaha immediately drew crowds and it was referred to as the American Legion Airfield for a short time. The airport boomed into 1929.

In 1931, a stunt pilot called Speed Holman crashed at the Omaha Airport and died. In 1934, the City of Omaha built a terminal at the American Legion Municipal Airport.

Eppley Airfield, North Omaha, Nebraska
In 1934, the City of Omaha opened a terminal at the American Legion Municipal Airport, later renamed Eppley Airfield.

A Rich Old Flyer Booms the Airport

Eppley Airfield, Omaha, Nebraska
A plane labeled “giant transcontinental places” landing in “Little Grand Island” with “An adequate landing field” while “Big Omaha” is sleeping against a tree. The caption says, “Wake up before its too late!”

Leading up to World War II, there was a surge in transcontinental airplane flights. Rather than taking trains or driving themselves, travelers suddenly wanted to travel to New York, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C. The pressure was on for cities like Omaha to become stopovers on these flights across the country. After a lot of improvements and promotion, in the years right after World War II Omaha began receiving more flights. In 1957, there were more than 40 daily flights from the airport.

As a young man, Eugene Eppley was a daredevil aeroplane flyer in Ohio, where he started his hotel empire.In 1960, Omaha’s American Legion Municipal Airport was renamed Eppley Airfield in honor of a $1,000,000 donation by the Eppley Foundation. Because of his donation, in 1961 a new terminal was opened at the airport and the runway length at the airport was expanded to accomodate jet airplanes.

This same expansion led to the downfall of a neighboring town.

Killing East Omaha

From the 1960s through the 1980s, Eppley Airfield worked to acquire land, including homes, a school and other properties, south between the airport and the Missouri River. This area was the original Town of East Omaha, and is almost entirely devoid of any signs there was ever a town there. The airport essentially killed East Omaha.

In the 1950s, the airport acquired a large 500+ acre parcel in between the landing strip and the river. Immediate interest was in putting a large dump there, but after the City of Omaha rejected that idea the airport became better positioned for growth. After removing all the homes and farm parcels from that area, it was eventually fenced in. In the 1990s, the Lindbergh Plaza was paved around the airport and further security measures were installed.

In June 2011 the airport and all of eastern Omaha was struck by massive flooding from the Missouri River. More than 175,000 sandbags were placed to protect Eppley Airfield buildings and other places. The president declared a state of emergency, and more. 

Eppley in Modern Times

Today, the address of Eppley Airfield is located at 4501 Abbott Drive. Over the last decade, a number of improvements have been added to the airport and the area leading to it, especially Abbott Drive and the “north downtown” community where the Union Pacific Shops and Arsarco used to be.

In 2015, Omaha was the 60th most busy airport in the United States. There were approximately 75 daily flights throughout the year serving almost 4.2 million customers. There is also a brisk cargo service, and the airport is currently expanding.

The airport does not regularly celebrate its history, and there are no historic plaques or buildings left there today.

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Bonus Pics!

The death of stunt pilot Speed Holman came at the American Legion Municipal Airport in May 1931.

Postcards of the “New Municipal Airport, Omaha, Nebr.”

Eppley Airfield, North Omaha, Nebraska
The American Legion hangar at the Omaha Municipal Airfield in 1927. This became Eppley Airfield in 1960.
Eppley Airfield, Omaha, Nebraska from the NorthOmahaHistory.com
An aerial view of the future jet landing strip at Eppley in the late 1940s.
Eppley Airfield, North Omaha, Nebraska
This circa 1960s postcard is from Eppley Airfield, “Home of the Jets.”
North Omaha History Podcast Episode #40 is about Omaha's Eppley Airfield.
Episode 40 of the North Omaha History Podcast features the history of Omaha’s Eppley Airfield.


  1. Most interesting. Good work. I have great memories of Carter Lake and Omaha Municipal Airport. In the 40”s, my mother used to walk me to Carter Lake for fishing some three miles from home at 34th & Hartman. My uncle had one of the few motorboats on the lake. In the 40’s I took free Red Cross swimming lessons at the beach (the bath houses are still there). And during WWII I swept out the American Legion hangar (then operated by Sky Harbor) for one dollar and a ride in a J-3 cub. I also earned a pilot’s license at Omaha Municipal in 1957.


  2. Love reading the history of places, particularly airfields. I am trying to find out what airlines flew out of Eppley in 1962 specifically. Thought that would be easy but it has not been. Would appreciate any help/direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I recall going to the south end of the runway where there was a caretaker’s house and a road on which we could park and watch planes take off and land. Another memory is going to eat at the Silver Lining (?) restaurant in the terminal building for dinner. Finally, my dad and I went to pick up a relative from the airport (60s) and I spotted the wrestling star Haystacks Calhoun (how could you miss him?). At 600 pounds and donned in overalls he was a star and appeared on our local All-Star Wrestling with Joe Patrick and Speedy Zweiback (of Gera-Speed fame) from time-to-time. Of course, I got his autograph. After all he was a celebrity!

    Liked by 1 person

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