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A Diamond in the Rough - A Brief History of the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Upstate South Carolina. Published by Community Journals.


  • A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH A Brief History of the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport

    The next milestone in GSPs celebrated history Over the next four years, GSP visitors will witness the second and most substantial wave of renovations in the airports history with the Terminal Improvement Program, WINGSPAN. From initial planning and design to fi nal completion, WINGSPAN has you, the passenger, in mind. GSP has been, and will always be, the Upstates hometown airport, and the things you know and love about the airport wont change. Convenience. Community. Comfort. WINGSPAN signifi es the next milestone in GSPs celebrated history. Through year 2016 WINGSPAN will support a total of 1,397 local jobs, increase local income by $59.6 million, raise local output by $164.1 million, and boost tax revenues by $16 million.

    For more information about the WINGSPAN Program visit and the WINGSPAN blog at GSP will maintain this website and blog with real-time WINGSPAN updates and program information.


    Park closer. Check-in faster.GSP is closer, faster and less crowded than Atlanta or Charlotte Airports. Think GSP first. : Book Flights, Hotel Rooms and Rental Cars.

    Park closer. Check-in faster.GSP is closer, faster and less crowded than Atlanta or Charlotte Airports. Think GSP first. : Book Flights, Hotel Rooms and Rental Cars.2000 GSP Drive, Suite 1, Greer SC 29651 | 864.877.7426

    2000 GSP Drive, Suite 1, Greer SC 29651 | 864.877.7426

    The crowd roared as the ball cracked off the bat and shot toward the shortstop. Thinking he had hit a line drive to the outfi eld, the batter raced toward fi rst. But Witty Davis leaped high, snagged the ball and fi red it to fi rst baseman F. E. Hendrix, who scooped up the low throw

    and doubled the runner off fi rst base. Game over. The big crowd cheered wildly.

    The Flatwood Peaches had won another game.

    Photo provided by Mr. Francis Earle Hendrix

    Bill Barnet Doug SmithMinor ShawChair

    Hank RamellaVice-Chair

    Valerie MillerLeland Burch

  • 2 GSP International Airport |

    Home Field ADVANTAGEGreenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) has welcomed over 1.8 million passengers a year, is serviced by six major airlines and is still growing. GSP is home to over 1000 full-time and part-time employees who help man the Upstates travel gateway to the world. Conveniently located between Greenville and Spartanburg, the airport serves as the Upstates very own hometown airport.

    This month marks 50 years of GSP aviation excellence, and the airport has no plan of slowing down. In the midst of celebration, GSP is in the early stages of WINGSPAN, a four-year terminal improvement program designed to modernize the terminal building, improve passenger fl ow and upgrade the facility.

    The airport expansion and 50 years of fl ight are a testament to the foundation and vision supporting our hometown airport.

    Where the Runway Stands

    On any given Saturday afternoon, the runway greets over 4,500 travelers from the U.S. and around the world. What travelers may not know is that where the airport stands today was once a thriving farming community. Even in the 1950s, Saturday was a day to welcome incoming travelers from the region for some healthy competition on the baseball fi eld.

    The Spartanburg County Twilight League was a baseball league manned by local farmers and mill workers. Local peach farmer, Paul Wood, was the manager of the areas home team, the Flatwood Peaches. His farm was a 2,800-tree peach orchard, and he and his family lived in a house that stood where the GSP runway is today.

    In the 1950s, Saturday was game day, and the Peaches reigned supreme over the local baseball league. Over the years, the games slowed and the small community between Greenville and Spartanburg started to change as the area welcomed in the new travel port that also signifi ed regional growth.

    Manning the Bases

    Before GSP was constructed, Greenville and Spartanburg were home to smaller airports that were able to accommodate small planes. In 1945, World War I hero and president of Eastern Airlines, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, visited Greenville and urged local leaders to expand regional air travel capabilities and consider a regional airport.

    These words of wisdom did not go unnoticed. With the collaboration of a few Upstate leaders, the vision took shape and turned into a reality.

    Roger Milliken and Charlie Daniel were two of the local leaders who made this airport possible. While their backgrounds were diverse, they both loved to take a challenge head on. The duo understood the importance of building a regional airport in the Upstate, and worked together to build a team of leaders to make it possible.

    Home Field TRADITIONSThe airport was built with tradition and the people of Flatwood in mind. Local history is cherished and very much engrained in all facets of the airport. This emphasis was a major part of Roger Millikens vision, and continues to be a driving force today.

    The Lucky Horseshoe

    During the initial construction of the airport, workers unearthed a horseshoe that has become a unique part of airport history. The horseshoe was later embedded in the runway as both a reminder of the Flatwood farmland history and as a token of luck and prosperity.

    In January 1985, Delta and American Airlines announced plans to service GSP. This addition prompted GSP to undergo its fi rst-ever expansion in 1987. The renovations included expanding the concourses, building a parking garage, improving the emergency access roads, constructing more security fences and making general terminal improvements.

    The horseshoe was not forgotten during these renovations and still rests in the runway as a reminder of the airports heritage.

    Paul Wood (standing second from right) and his family in front of their Flatwood community home in 1919. The large home stood in the middle of

    what is now the GSP runway. (Courtesy of Kathy Woodedge)

  • 3

    The Boy Aviator

    The Boy Aviator statue that stands in the terminals atrium pool was created by noted Utah sculptor, Dennis Smith. It was unveiled in 2004 in honor of Roger Millikens longtime service as GSP International Airport Commission Chairman. A little known fact about the statue is that the face of the boy aviator was sculpted to mirror the face of a young Roger Milliken. The statue is and will remain a cherished monument at the airport.

    In the Outfi eld

    When Roger Milliken envisioned the regional airport, he did so with his passion for natural beauty and trees. His vision laid the foundation for the airports dedication to green practices and a devotion to showcasing the natural scenery of the area.

    The airport has received the Spartanburg Mens Garden Club Special Achievement Award six consecutive years for their landscaping efforts. The gardens and fountains of GSP will forever be a part of the airport, remaining paramount with WINGSPAN renovations to come.

    GSP is also a certifi ed tree farm, and has a responsibility to trim,

    prune and harvest acreage in order to maintain compliance with the South Carolina Forestry Commission Best Management Practices. In some years GSP has planted as many as 25,000 saplings. While the land has changed to make room

    for the airport, it is not far from its roots as a peach tree farm.

    ROGER MILLIKEN - Leader of Milliken & Company for 71 years, Roger Milliken was known for his integrity, strong work ethic and commitment to the future. Millikens dedication to the community and economic growth was a driving force in making the airport possible. As the initial chairman of the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport Commission, he incorporated his passion for showcasing the natural beauty of the area in the landscaping and original design of the airport.

    CHARLIE DANIEL - Founder of Daniel Construction Company, Charlie Daniel was dedicated to bringing industry and business to South Carolina. Daniel Construction Company helped build World War II industrial plants and higher education facilities in the Upstate. He was known for his ability to sell business and industry in South Carolina. Selling the airport came naturally to this savvy developer.

    ALEX CROUCH - Engineer and pilot, Alex Crouch of Piedmont Engineering played an instrumental role in selecting the site where the airport stands today. Crouch saw the potential in the small area between Greenville and Spartanburg known as Flatwood. The area was easy to locate, at the proper elevation and spacious enough to accommodate the needs of the growing aviation industry. Crouch understood that location was everything.

    An area like this will grow not just because you have provided

    such facilities like an airport. It will grow only because of the kind of business climate you have

    maintained here. Roger Milliken, July 25, 1961

    The Players

    terminals atrium pool was created by noted Utah terminals atrium pool was created by noted Utah sculptor, Dennis Smith. It was unveiled in 2004 sculptor, Dennis Smith. It was unveiled in 2004 in honor of Roger Millikens longtime service as in honor of Roger Millikens longtime service as GSP International Airport Commission Chairman.