The original airfield was established in 1920 as Hamilton Airport by local business owner and aviator, Thomas Hamilton. Milwaukee County purchased the land on October 19, 1926, for the Milwaukee County Airport. The first airport terminal there, the Hirschbuehl Farmhouse, opened in July 1927. That month, Northwest Airlines, Inc., began air service from Milwaukee to Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul. In August 1927, world-renowned aviator Charles Lindbergh visited the Milwaukee airport. Kohler Aviation Corporation began providing passenger service across Lake Michigan on August 31, 1929. During the late depression years (from 1938 to July 1940), a new two-story passenger terminal building was constructed by the Works Progress Administration. On March 17, 1941 the airport was renamed General Mitchell Field after Milwaukee's military airpower advocate, Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell. On January 4, 1945, Mitchell Field was leased to the War Department for use as a World War II prisoner-of-war camp. Over 3,000 prisoners and 250 enlisted men stayed at the work camp. Escaped German prisoners were often surprised to find a large German American population just beyond the fence. The present terminal opened on July 20, 1955 and was designed by Leigh Fisher and Associates. It was renovated and expanded in 1985, designed by Miller, Meier, Kenyon, Cooper Architects and Planners Inc. The "hammerhead" section of the D concourse was added in 1990. On June 19, 1986 the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors renamed the airport General Mitchell International Airport. On February 4, 2019, the airport was renamed Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.
The airport is owned and operated by Milwaukee County, but some Milwaukee business leaders and politicians have advocated privatization or leasing it to a third party for financial reasons.
In February 2019, the airport was renamed from "General Mitchell International Airport" to "Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport," a rebranding meant to highlight the airport's location.
Awards and recognition
In October 2008 a Condé Nast Traveler poll ranked Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport fourth in the nation using categories of Location and Access, Design, Customs and Baggage, Perceived Safety and Security, as well as Food, Shops and Amenities.
Mitchell International expanded the runway safety area at the end of the runways after an accident on January 21, 2007, when Northwest Airlines Flight 1726 skidded off the runway following an aborted takeoff. According to the FAA, most airports are encouraged to have a runway safety area no shorter than 1,000 feet (305 m), though many airports do not. Construction of the runway safety areas began at the end of summer 2009 and was completed in fall 2012.
There is also a "Master Plan" idea to increase terminal area by stretching the existing terminal (in some cases, to almost double the size) or begin construction of a separate terminal. Nearly all cases would involve major reconstruction on the airport itself, and would have a huge impact on the airport's traffic. These plans were, however, drafted before Mitchell saw a significant reduction in carriers and flights. More recently, in 2012, there have been discussions of closing one concourse as a cost-cutting move.
The approved 2018 Milwaukee County Budget contains initial funding for replacement of the now-closed Concourse E with a new International Terminal. It will replace the current International Arrivals Terminal (IAT) which has limited capacity and is not connected to the main terminal building. The new terminal is planned to open in 2020 after the demolition of Concourse E is completed. During October 2018, airport and Milwaukee County officials set a timeline for design, construction and completion of the new International terminal. Pre-design work and bidding is set to conclude in November 2018, with construction set to begin in early 2020 and likely concluding in mid-2021. 
Facilities and operations
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport covers 2,180 acres (880 ha) and has five asphalt and concreterunways ranging from 4,183 to 9,990 ft (1,463 to 3,045 m). A helipad measuring 100 by 100 ft (30 x 30m) is on the south side of the airport property. The 07R/25L runway has an overpass with Howell Avenue (WI-38) running underneath. For the year ending June 30, 2018, the airport had 112,932 aircraft operations, an average of 309 per day: 56% commercial airline, 32% air taxi, 10% general aviation and 2% military. In February 2019, there were 95 aircraft based at this airport: 33 single-engine, 27 multi-engine, 25 jet and 10 various military aircraft. The main building houses the Mitchell Gallery of Flight, a non-profit museum on the concession level, the usual retail outlets, including a small food court and a branch of Renaissance Books which is believed to be the world's first used book store in an airport. In 2015 the airport added three lactation stations not associated with restrooms for breastfeeding. There are also play areas for children throughout the airport. An observation lot along the northern edge of the airport is open to the public and tower communications are rebroadcast using a low-power FM transmitter for visitors to tune in on their car radios. There is also a new lot on 6th Street, with a Wisconsin historical marker giving the airport's history. In 2008, then airport director Barry Bateman jokingly designated an area in Concourse C following security checkpoint the "Recombobulation Area". All the airports concourses now have signs marking "Recombobulation Areas" with chairs where travelers can get their belongings back together after passing through security. The reception by travelers has been positive.
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport has 38 gates of which 31 are equipped with jet bridges on two concourses in one terminal. All international arrivals lacking border preclearance must pass through the International Arrivals Building.
In April 2017, all airlines housed in Concourse E began moving to Concourse C. This would allow the airport to remodel the concourse and move International Arrivals processing into the terminal. Following redevelopment of Concourse E, the current International Arrivals Building just north of the main terminals will close.
The airport also hosts the General Mitchell Air National Guard Base on the eastern area of the airport property, home to the 128th Air Refueling Wing (128 ARW), an Air Mobility Command (AMC)-gained unit of the Wisconsin Air National Guard flying the KC-135R Stratotanker. The wing performs both Federal and State missions and consists of approximately 1000 Air National Guard personnel, both full-time Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) and Air Reserve Technicians (ART), as well as traditional part-time guardsmen, available for worldwide deployment in support of Air Mobility Command and combatant commander tasking. The wing also maintains a KC-135 flight simulator, providing training proficiency for its own crews, as well as other KC-135 flight crews in other air refueling wings and air mobility wings in the Regular U.S. Air Force, the Air Force Reserve Command and the Air National Guard.
Prior to 2007, a second military installation on the southwestern portion of the airport property was known as "General Mitchell Air Reserve Station" and was home to the 440th Airlift Wing (440 AW), an Air Mobility Command (AMC)-gained unit of the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) flying the C-130H Hercules. While based at General Mitchell ARS, the 440 AW numbered in excess of 1500 full-time AGR, ART and part-time traditional reservists. Pursuant to 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) action, the 440 AW relocated to Pope AFB, North Carolina, in 2007 and the former AFRC facilities were turned over to the Air National Guard, resulting in the installation's renaming.
Badger Coach has frequent trips between Mitchell Airport, Downtown Milwaukee, Madison, Johnson Creek and Goerkes Corners.
Milwaukee County Transit System The Green Line MetroExpress offers service to downtown and north shore suburbs. Regular Route 80 also serves the Airport (from Oak Creek to downtown and north side).
On December 17, 1954, a Miller Brewing Company plane, a converted twin-engine Lockheed Ventura bound for Winnipeg on a Friday evening, had trouble with both engines and crashed shortly after takeoff from Mitchell Field. All four on board were killed, which included company president Fred Miller and his oldest son, 20-year-old Fred, Jr., and the two company pilots, brothers Joseph and Paul Laird.
On August 4, 1968, a Convair CV-580, flying as North Central Airlines flight 261, collided in mid-air with a privately owned Cessna 150. The Cessna cabin remained attached to the Convair's forward baggage compartment. The Convair made a safe emergency landing at Milwaukee. The three Cessna occupants were killed. The Cessna was on a VFR flight from Lombard, Illinois to Sheboygan County Memorial Airport in Sheboygan Falls. It was determined that the inability of the Convair 580 flight crew to detect the Cessna 150 visually in sufficient time to take evasive action, despite having been provided with three radar traffic advisories, caused the crash. Visual detection capabilities were reduced by the heavy accumulation of insect smears on the windows of the Convair. Visibility was further reduced by haze, smoke and sunglare, and by the inconspicuous colour and lack of relative motion of the Cessna.
On January 23, 2007, two Freight Runners Express cargo planes collided and burned on a taxiway. Both pilots were able to escape without injury. The planes were a Cessna 402 and a Beech 99. An NTSB investigation determined both pilots and air traffic control were at fault for the accident.
On June 4, 2007, a Cessna Citation II crashed after reporting a runaway trim tab. The pilot issued a distress signal within five minutes after taking off. The plane then crashed into Lake Michigan two miles (3 km) off shore. The plane was carrying an organ transplant team from the University of Michigan back to Willow Run Airport. There was a crew of two and four passengers aboard. All six died.
On November 13, 2007, a Midwest Connect flight from Milwaukee bound for Dayton was in a near-miss situation with a United Express jet heading to Chicago O'Hare International Airport from Greensboro while flying over northern Indiana. Air traffic controllers with Chicago Center directed the Midwest Connect flight to begin its descent while traveling head-on towards the United Express CRJ a few thousand feet below. The planes came as close as 1.3 miles (2.1 km) apart horizontally and 600 feet (183 m) vertically. The Midwest Connect Dornier 328JET was just above the United Express aircraft and descending while they were closing in on each other. An audible TCAS alarm in the Midwest Connect cockpit alerted the pilots of the proximity, allowing them to pull up in time.