University of Illinois Willard Airport is an airport owned and operated by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign located south of Savoy in Tolono Township, Champaign County, Illinois. It serves the greater Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan Area in East Central Illinois. Willard Airport is named for former University of Illinois president Arthur Cutts Willard, and home to the University of Illinois Institute of Aviation, which is a major research facility at the university.
The airport faces several challenges in terms of competitiveness. No international flights are offered due to the lack of U.S. immigration and customs facilities. The additional price airlines charge to fly to regional airports compared to a major hub like Chicago's O'Hare Airport often encourages budget-minded travellers to use surface transport to reach Champaign County instead. Finally, some airlines do not fly into Willard Airport at all, having chosen to serve Central Illinois only via the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington-Normal instead.
Willard Airport received its 15 minutes of fame on January 28, 1998. President Bill Clinton was in Champaign-Urbana for a speaking engagement at Assembly Hall and arrived at Willard Airport on Air Force One. Due to the breaking story, news media descended on Champaign-Urbana. After the engagement, just prior to takeoff, the Boeing 707 acting as Air Force One got stuck in the mud, the taxiway not being designed for aircraft as wide as the Boeing 707. After about an hour of being stuck, a backup Air Force One descended upon Willard Airport. The backup was SAM26000 which was the same 707 that took John Kennedy to Dallas. The trip on SAM26000 marked the last time it carried a sitting president. Several months later it was retired to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson. Many news broadcasts that evening carried live video feed of the Presidential aircraft stuck at Willard Airport.
The terminal is made of five gates: gates 1-5