Two years after the United States entered into World War II, Marana Regional Airport began humbly as Marana Auxiliary Army Airfield #2 (Rillito), one of the satellite airfields or “landing mats” serving the nearby Marana Air Base, now known as Pinal Airpark. There were five such “mats”, which were 3,000 square foot asphalt pads each with four auxiliary runways utilized by military student pilots to practice take-offs and landings. Other Marana Auxilliary Army Airfields included the following:
- Marana Auxiliary Army Airfield #1 (Picacho Field, Picacho, Arizona. Now Picacho Stagefield Heliport)
- Marana Auxiliary Army Airfield #3 (Coronado Field, Red Rock, Arizona)
- Marana Auxiliary Army Airfield #4 (Avra Field, Marana, Arizona)
- Marana Auxiliary Army Airfield #5 (Sahuaro Field , Marana, Arizona. Now El Tiro Gliderport)
During World War II, the U.S. Army Air Force trained in the North American AT-6 “Texan”. Later in military history, during the Korean War, the US Air Force pilots in Marana were trained in the North American T-28 “Trojan” aircraft.
The Avra Valley Airport was established by a private operator, and it was then that the first permanent airport buildings were constructed. They consisted of two aircraft storage hangars, one conventional hangar for aircraft maintenance, and a small office building.
From 1968 through 1969, major runway expansion took place, with 1,200 feet of apron pavement added, and by 1972, the words “Avra Valley” had been painted on one of the runways that had been abandoned. There were ten aircraft based at the airport in 1963. By 1972, the airport was home to 30 airplanes.
CHANGE OF HANDS
In 1973, the Pima County Department of Transportation took ownership of the Avra Valley Airport. During the remainder of the 1970’s, significant construction and improvements to the airport occurred, including the addition of a formal airport entrance and paved parking lot. Airport usage continued to increase that resulted in the expansion of the aircraft parking apron. By 1980, there were approximately 50 aircraft based there.
In 1981, major repairs to the primary runway were completed and it was re-opened with 4,200 feet in length. The airport experienced additional traffic and the total based aircraft had risen to 75. Many new structures were added on the airport property.
In 1982, the terminal building and offices of the operator were constructed along with the expansion of the auto parking area. Another notable addition was the construction of The Sky Rider coffee shop in 1983. Now for the first time, the local pilots could play host to their friends from other airports.
In 1990, expansion and the paving of the auto parking area associated with the terminal building were completed. Further runway extensions also were made in the 1990’s along with a new state-of-the-art fueling system that provided both Avgas and Jet-A.
In 1999, ownership of the Avra Valley Airport was transferred to the Town of Marana and the name of the airport was changed to Marana Northwest Regional Airport. In 2002, the name of the airport was changed to Marana Regional Airport.