I use to fly into Kansas City Downtown airport quite a bit in my early flying days. It brings back both pleasant memories and a not so pleasant one. I read recently of the completion of a $90 million revitalization project at the airport last week.
The project featured a new general aviation terminal building, construction of 96 hangars, including 12 with radiant floor heating; a self-service fuel island; and runway and taxiway rehabilitation.
Dedicated by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport is the city’s first airport and still one of its busiest. Originally home to commercial aviation, the airport now attracts a large number of corporate, charter and recreational flyers.
The good memories are of the days I would ride along with a friend who flew freight in a Piper Aerostar. The route consisted of a late night departure from Omaha’s Eppley Airfield to Lambert Field in St. Louis. We would drop our cargo, pick up new, and then head to Kansas City, arriving at the Downtown airport around 4:00 A.M. We would then get a couple of hours of shut-eye in the pilot’s lounge before heading to Lincoln, Nebraska and then back to Omaha.
The not-so-fond memory came from one of my first long cross-country flights in the early days of my flight training. Kansas City Downtown airport was my last stop before returning to Omaha. I learned about TCA’s during that flight – the hard way.
Going in, was uneventful. I received the proper clearance before entering the controlled airspace and all was well in the world. Leaving was a different story. I knew that I had to get my clearance to enter controlled airspace shortly after take-off, if I was going to continue my northerly track back to Omaha, but didn’t do a very thorough job of planning on how to stay clear of the inverted wedding cake’s airspace, should I not get a clearance right away, and of course, as fate would have it, I didn’t.
Things got away from me rather quickly and once I finally did established two-way communication between myself and the controller and entered the appropriate squawk code, he quickly realized my location and altitude put me exactly where I shouldn’t be and preceded to give me a well-deserved chewing out. I learned an important lesson that day. Once back home, I went over the situation with my instructor to make sure I understood what I did wrong and how to correctly handle the situation next time.
Downtown Airport is just across the Missouri River from Kansas City’s business center. In the shadows of the downtown skyline, up to 700 aircraft per day take off or land at the airport – everything from single-engine propeller craft to sleek corporate jets. Fixed-base operators service nearly 300 based aircraft, as well as itinerant and charter aircraft, offering fuel, full maintenance, aircraft rentals, sales and flight training.
Downtown airport was the early home to Howard Hughes’s TWA Airline, and served as the city’s primary airport until Kansas City International Airport opened in 1972.” I’m sure the new digs will be a welcome change by everyone, but I’ll always have pleasant memories of getting a few winks in a well-worn recliner in an old building, which for a young man in his early twenties was life at its best.