Updated April 6, 2009
Having a downtown airport that’s truly “downtown” has proven to be a boon for Kansas City, MO, owner of the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (MKC). “We tell everyone, you’ll be in the center of the city in less than five minutes,” says Michael Roper, airport manager. “That is the premier reason for continued growth of the airport. It’s one of the last few truly downtown airports.”
Downtown Airport is home to nearly 50 turbine-powered jets and 150 single and twin-engine aircraft. Hangar space is currently 95 percent full, but not for long. In 2007, the airport is scheduled to build 122 T-hangars, 13 box hangars, 10 tie-down positions, a self-serve fueling station, outdoor washing area and a 40,000-square-foot terminal building with offices, pilot’s lounge, meeting rooms, weather center and restaurant. The airport already has an extensive waiting list of prospective tenants.
The project is part of a larger capital improvement program that included repaving the airport’s 7,000-foot main runway over the past two years. Roper says the airport averages 40 to 60 airline charters per year, but has no scheduled commercial service. Executive Beechcraft is the airport’s sole FBO. In terms of economics, a 2002 analysis associated with the current master plan revealed direct and indirect economic impact of the airport to the Kansas City metropolitan area is an estimated $280 million annually.
Being close to downtown is only part of the story of the airport’s success – it’s also bordered on two sides by the Missouri River and a highway and railroad switching yard on the third side. Though the borders leave little room for expansion, it also means noise is rarely an issue. “We rarely get noise complaints,” says Roper. In fact, the airport is turning out to be a magnet for Kansas City residents. Roper says that as part of a “renaissance” downtown, developers are purchasing old buildings and converting them into apartments. The pleasing “green space” those apartment dwellers see when they look out their windows is the airport. Roper says citizens by the hundreds use airport service roads for biking and jogging. This year’s annual air show, featuring the Navy Blue Angels Aerobatic Team, brought out 150,000 visitors, says Roper.