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Celebrating 95 years of Delta at Green Bay Austin Straubel

The first Delta Airlines flight was Dec. 15, 1928

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December 27, 2023

GREEN BAY – Even before the Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB) had an airport code, there was one airline that has been “friend” from the beginning – Delta.

GRB and Delta Airlines recently celebrated its 95-year partnership – a milestone that all involved described as monumental.

A historic backstory
The first flight took off Dec. 15, 1928, from Blesch Field – which was located at the intersection of Ashland and Lombardi avenues – by former Delta subsidiary, Northwest Airlines.

The 1928 Waco 125 mail plane was flown by Chief Pilot Charles “Speed” Holman, known for his national air races and stunt flying.

Airport Director Marty Piette said not only was Holman the first to take off from Green Bay, he was also Northwest Airlines’ first pilot.

“The mail plane Holman flew that day was an open-air aircraft, capable of carrying two passengers and one pilot,” he said. “You can find a similar Waco mail plane dedicated to Holman’s inaugural flight at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta.”

Since that time, Piette said the relationship between Delta and GRB has grown.

GRB Airport Director Marty Piette said the partnership with Delta has helped Green Bay grow and prosper. Rich Palzewic Photo

“That relationship has helped both of our businesses and helped our communities grow and prosper,” he said. “Delta continues to serve GRB, which is the third largest airport in the state, encompassing nearly 2,500 acres, two concourses and 12 gates. Travelers don’t have to venture to far-away airports to enjoy their adventures.”

Additionally, Piette said, Delta’s routes provide GRB travelers the ability to travel nearly anywhere in the world.

“We were able to grow over the years thanks to Delta’s increased service, which includes nonstop service to Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis,” he said. “Delta is also the airline used by the Green Bay Packers for its out-of-town travel.”

Besides Delta, GRB also serves American, Frontier, Sun Country and United airlines.

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach said the relationship GRB has with Delta makes it possible for the region’s local shops, hotels, restaurants, businesses and universities to “be seen and known by people from all over the world.”

“Not a lot of businesses stay in business for 95 years – that’s quite an accomplishment,” he said. “Economically, every region needs to have a vibrant airport to be successful. We know what the trickle-down effect has on the economy. We look forward to the next 95 years.”

More on the Delta partnership
Sandy Samuelson, global station manager at GRB, said Delta has gone through many changes over the years through mergers and acquisitions.

“In 1948, Austin Straubel serviced with Wisconsin Central Airlines, which in 1952, changed its name to North Central Airlines,” she said.

Samuelson said in 1979 North Central and Southern Airways merged to form Republic Airlines.

“From there, Republic merged with Northwest Airlines,” she said. “In 2008, it was announced Northwest would merge with Delta. The acquisition became official in 2010. No one person is an airline – an airline is a team.”

Piette said he’s excited for the next 95 years of the Delta partnership.

“I wonder what those aircraft will look like,” he said. “When our airport has a strong airline partner, it makes for a strong economic impact. We thank Delta for its partnership with our community.”

To help GRB and Delta celebrate their milestone partnership, artifacts will be on display at the airport showcasing the history of the airport and the airline.

Delta and GRB have gone through many changes over the years through mergers and acquisitions. Rich Palzewic Photo

“It’s amazing to see how much growth there has been,” Piette said. “Both the airport and Delta commit to continuous improvement, including technological innovations and a focus on customer satisfaction.”

A little history
GRB is named after Lt. Col. Austin Straubel, Brown County’s first aviation loss in World War II.

After serving 13 years in the United States Army Air Corps, Straubel died Feb. 3, 1942, after his B-18 bomber was shot down. 
In the 1940s, the airport changed its name to Austin Straubel Field and opened to commercial traffic in October 1948.

The airport name was officially changed to Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport Aug. 17, 2016, by resolution of the Brown County Board.

Additionally, GRB is one of only two commercial airports in Wisconsin designated as a Landing Rights Airport by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for international flight arrivals.

The airport is also undergoing a multi-phased improvement project, which includes renovations and upgrades to its parking lots, runways, terminals and entrance and exit plazas.

For more information on GRB, visit

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