During World War II Will Rogers Field was a major training facility for the United States Army Air Forces; many fighter and bomber units were activated and received initial training there.
The December 1951 C&GS chart shows 5497-ft runway 3, 3801-ft runway 8, 5652-ft runway 12 and 5100-ft runway 17.
The April 1957 OAG showed 21 daily non-stop departures on Braniff International Airways, 15 on American Airlines, 5 on Central Airlines, 4 on Continental Airlines and 3 on TWA. A TWA Constellation aircraft flew non-stop from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles but eastward non-stops didn't reach beyond Wichita, Kansas, Tulsa or Dallas, Texas. Oklahoma City began non-stop flights to Chicago starting in 1966.
Great Plains Airlines, a regional airline based in Tulsa, made Will Rogers World Airport a hub in 2001, with non-stop flights to Tulsa, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Colorado Springs, Colorado and direct or connecting flights to Nashville, Tennessee, Saint Louis, Chicago, and Washington. The airline had hoped to reach additional East and West coast markets but declared bankruptcy and ceased operations on January 23, 2004.
On May 31, 2013, an EF-1 tornado hit Will Rogers Airport. The 1.4-mile wide tornado traveled 10.4 miles which includes across the northern side of the airport. The path of the tornado passed over the facilities of MetroTech, FAA, Oklahoma National Guard, AAR, Four Points Hotel, and the passenger terminal and hangars on the North and East side of the airport. Minor damage was reported at AAR and other buildings in this path. The Parking Spot location north of the airport on Meridian Ave was also hit by the tornado. The company decided in August 2013 not to re-open the facility and exit the OKC market.
The airport once partnered with Tinker AFB in presenting Aerospace America airshow.
By the late 1990s the Oklahoma City Airport Trust deemed the 1967-built terminal building unsuitable. Following the adoption of a three phase master plan, preparations for renovating the airport were launched in 2001. The old twin concourses (visible in the 1995 photograph) were demolished to make way for a larger terminal with integrated concourses, high ceilings, and modern facilities.
A$110 million multi-phase expansion and renovation project, designed by Atkins Benham Inc. and Gensler and built by Oscar J. Boldt Construction Company, began in 2001. Phase-I involved erection of construction walkways from the five-story parking garage to the terminal building, demolition of the terminal's existing elevator core, construction of new elevator and escalator cores on the tunnel level and on level one, building temporary entrance and exit ramps for vehicles approaching and leaving the terminal, reconstruction of the roofs of the lower level and level one, finishing the elevator and escalator cores to level two, building new permanent entry and exit ramps for vehicles and construction of a new transportation plaza and driving lanes. Phase-II included a new concourse constructed to the west of the central terminal area, which was renovated to match the interior and exterior designs of the new concourse. The 1960s-built concourses were then demolished after the new concourse opened in 2005. The entire phase was completed in November 2006. Phase-III project calls for the construction of a new concourse to the east, with at least eight more gates as well as expanded retail, restaurant, and baggage areas.
Will Rogers World Airport has a single three-level terminal with 17 departure gates along the West Concourse (Gates 1–12) and Central Concourse (Gates 14–24). Gates on the south side use even numbers while those on the north use odd. Due to the terminal's layout, certain odd numbers are omitted in the succession of Gates 1 through 24. Arriving passengers can access baggage claim in the downstairs level where there are 9 baggage belts. Level 3 contains offices for airline and airport staff.
The architecture of the current terminal uses native stone along with loft-ceilings, plate glass and brushed metal. Compared to the original terminal design of the old Concourses A and B, today's terminal provide a more open feel similar to that found in larger hub airports.
In 2008, Will Rogers World Airport officials approved a contract with Frankfurt Short Bruza Associates to begin planning for expansion. However, officials agreed to postpone the expansion plan due to the industry-wide decline in passenger traffic.
During 2012 the Phase III expansion plan was updated to include a new Central Concourse reconfiguration plan. In 2014, the Airport Trust selected Option 2a, which includes only the central terminal improvements. The $3.6M project will create a new central checkpoint in the center of the check-in hall. Two new greeter lobbies will be created where existing check points exist. The expansion will slightly reduce the space utilized by Sonic in the food court. The restrooms in the area will also be relocated to the nearby Osage room. The Southwest ticket counters will be relocated further east.
In 2015 the airport trust agreed to proceed with the full construction of the East Concourse due to increased congestion in the existing West and Central concourses and passenger demand. When completed, the existing terminal building would expand to the east and include a new passenger concourse with four gates, which would increase the number of boarding gates to 21. The new facility will have customs and immigration on the lower level accessed by the two eastern-most gates and would serve international arrivals. The expansion will incorporate a single TSA screening zone in the center of the existing terminal, the food court will be removed and two reconstructed, and arriving passengers would exit at the current TSA zones (which will be dramatically downsized). The East expansion will include onsite USAA military welcoming facilities, expanded concessions and office space, and an updated terminal lobby.
The new East expansion will also include an innovative view system composed of an elevated platform that will allow visitors to walk above the newly expanded East section and view down onto the concourse and the airside. Visitors would enter the elevated walkway in the terminal lobby non-secured side and there will also be a lounge. This design is intended to provide visitors the experience of airports of old; where one could walk all the way to the gate – albeit today completely separated from the secured concourse space. The expansion is expected to open in 2018.
If necessary, final expansion of the existing master plan could be accomplished with construction of the Central Concourse, increasing gate capacity by an additional 10 gates. This would give the terminal a final configuration with three concourses, East, West, and Central and would provide the airport with 30+ gates.
A number of companies offer taxi and shuttle service to downtown Oklahoma City and the surrounding metro area. Hotels have shuttle service to the airport.
The airport opened a new Consolidated Rental Car Facility in early 2016, moving all rental services away from the Terminal to a grand facility nearby. Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty rental companies offer service at Will Rogers World Airport. Shuttle buses connect passengers from the arrivals plaza just outside the terminal.
Embark (405-235-7433), the City of Oklahoma City's public bus system, currently does not serve the airport.
The airport began a $3.8 million maintenance project in September 2011 to rehabilitate and repair two of its three parking garages. The project will make improvements to garages A and B, two of the six parking options at the airport. Garage A is the two-story garage that provides hourly parking for the airport's short-term visitors on the upper level, and "ready-return" spaces for the rental car agencies on the lower level. Parking Garage B, adjacent to A, is the older of the two five-level parking structures that provide covered parking for air travelers. Garage C, the new parking garage which opened in 2009, will not be impacted. Nearing middle age, (Garage A is 44 years old and Garage B is 31 years old) the structures will undergo several different types of refurbishments that will extend the long-term use of the facilities. The work will include:Repair of concrete walls and pillars, specifically where there are cracks or spalling (chips of concrete that have broken off) and other deterioration
Replacement or repair of exterior stairs
Replacement and upgrade of all lighting circuits
Replacement and upgrade of all lighting fixtures
The top levels of each garage will receive new expansion joints, membrane coating, waterproofing and protectant to prevent leaking
The project will be divided into 12 sequences allowing the airport to keep as much of the garage open as possible. Most of the sequences will only require closing about 300 spaces at a time, leaving approximately 2,500 of the 2,800 total spaces in the two garages available for parking. The project work will start in the five-level Garage B on levels one and two. The entire project is anticipated to take 18 months. The most challenging portion of the project will be when the work commences on the two-story parking garage. During this sequencing, hourly parking and rental car companies will be moved to temporary locations in Garage B and C.
The airport operates three surface parking lots on the grounds of WRWA.Lot #1 is a long term remote shuttle lot located on Amelia Earhart Drive.
Lot #2 is a long term shuttle lot located directly adjacent to the parking garages on the north side.
Lot #3 is a long term canopy shuttle lot that provides shelter from sun and hail with protective canopies. It is located to the west of the parking garages on 67th Street near the control tower.
The airport provides a short term parking area in the second (top) level of Garage A. The parking is free for the first hour and then $1 per hour after that. There are also two cell phone waiting areas just across the street from the shuttle parking lot #2, near Lot #3, and by the flag plaza north of the long term shuttle Lot #2.
Will Rogers World Airport is used by military flights of the Oklahoma Air National Guard at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base.
The Federal Aviation Administration Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center is located on the west side of the airport. The Center headquarter's the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, FAA Academy and Logistics Center.
The U.S. Department of Justice has major Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS) facilities at Will Rogers World Airport. The Federal Transfer Center and its principal air hub is built on the west side of the airport grounds, off of Taxiway G.
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol operate their national training facility on airport grounds. They operate a hangar on the north side of the airport, off of Taxiway N, north of the JPATS Hangar.
The Oklahoma City Composite Squadron of Civil Air Patrol meets on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 pm on the grounds of the Oklahoma Air National Guard base on the West side of the field.
The City of Oklahoma City Department of Airports manages Will Rogers World Airport and the other city-owned airports: Wiley Post Airport and Clarence E. Page Airport. The Airport Trust is led by Director Mark Kranenburg.
Will Rogers World Airport has a separate terminal facility used by air taxi and corporate service, although most of these flights use the Wiley Post Airport, Oklahoma City's FAA-designated reliever facility.
AAR Oklahoma has a major maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility and regional headquarters at Will Rogers World Airport, in addition to other aircraft maintenance and aircraft on ground organizations.
ARINC has major facilities on the airport premises, including plans to double the size of their current facility.
Atlantic Aviation has a fixed-base operation located on the east side of the airport, off of Taxiway H. This is Atlantic's first Greenfield project.
Southwest Airlines has one of its largest customer service and support centers on the northern grounds of Will Rogers World Airport.
Will Rogers World Airport is home to Metro Technology Center's Aviation Career Campus. The aviation center offers training to prepare aircraft maintenance technicians with Classrooms, practical labs, and separate airframe and powerplant hangars are available for academic and hands-on training. The Aviation Maintenance Technician program is an 18-month course that is certified and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The facility is on the west side of the airport, north of the FAA center. One notable sight on the MetroTech campus includes a donated [[AirTran Airways]] DC-9-30 in the post AirTran Airways / ValuJet merger colors.
Will Rogers World Airport permanently hosts the Ninety Nines Museum of Women Pilots. The facility is located on more than 5,000 square feet (460 m2), occupying the entire second floor of the International Headquarters building. It features a repository for a unique collection of the papers, personal items and other historic artifacts of some of the most significant achievements and adventures of the international community of women pilots. Its library and exhibit areas will provide new insights into the role women pilots played in the development of aviation.
Lariat Landing is a new development on the East side of the airport grounds that encompasses 1,000 acres. The development is meant to generate increased non-airline revenue for the airport while still growing air service. The development will be mixed use with nearly half of it, north of Portland Avenue, designated to direct aviation support (with runway access) with an additional portion dedicated to aviation support companies. The remaining portion south of Portland Avenue will be zoned for retail, industrial, and commercial office space.
The direct aviation parcels of Lariat Landing will be marketed towards aircraft maintenance, aircraft manufacturing, commercial air cargo, and corporate aviation companies. Atlantic Aviation and ARINC are two tenants already located in the new development area. The aviation support district will be targeting companies that provides aviation related goods and services. The target companies include freight forwarders, logistics, cargo, warehousing, distribution operations, and manufacturing companies.
Located between Interstate 44 and Portland Avenue, the office park will have a retail village as the gateway to its campus. It will target offices, hotels/motels, retail, warehouse, distribution, and logistic companies.
Property will only be leased due to FAA requirements and will have a maximum term of 40 years. The realignment of Portland Avenue is currently in process while the new 48-inch waterline installation has already been completed.
On March 26, 1939, a Douglas DC-2, registration NC13727, crashed while attempting to return to the airport. The aircraft, operated by Braniff Airways, had just departed when a cylinder on the left engine tore loose from its mounting and caused a tear in the engine cowling. Subsequent drag from the torn cowling resulted in a stall on the wing, and the plane cartwheeled on to the airport grounds, just yards from the safety of the runway. The Captain cut the fuel switches just before impact, but misted fuel from the tanks spread over the hot engines, causing a fire. The Captain, First Officer, and three passengers survived. The flight's Hostess and seven passengers, however, perished in the disaster.
A Rockwell Sabreliner, registration N5565 crashed on January 15, 1974, after descending below minimums on an ILS approach in low clouds and fog.
On December 21, 2012, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Cessna Citation crashed during landing at Will Rogers Airport.
On November 15, 2016, a Southwest Airlines employee, Michael Winchester was shot and killed in a parking garage; a 45-year-old suspect, Lloyd Dean Buie, was subsequently found dead of an apparently self-inflicted wound. Winchester was the father of Kansas City Chiefs long snapper James Winchester and himself a former punter and member of the Oklahoma Sooners' 1985 national championship college team.