Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport is located in Kansas City, Missouri on the western edge of this Midwest state. The airport is named after a former mayor of Kansas City who was in office when Kansas City International opened.
When the airport replaced Richards Field as the main airport for Kansas City, Trans World Airlines (TWA) was its primary carrier as the airline was headquartered right in KC. Due to the fact that rail travel and air travel were thought to be an integrated part of the overall transportation system of the United States at the time the airport was built, it was purposely located in the Missouri River bottoms adjacent to the railroad tracks at the Hannibal Bridge. However, this positioning also left little room for expansion with the airport also being right at the meeting point of the Kansas River and Missouri River.
During the last century, there have been two great floods in the area, one in 1951 and another in 1993. The airport is protected by levees which did an excellent job of keeping the majority of the flood waters out during each event. The flood in 1951 was part of the decision to place Kansas City International Airport away from the waterways when that project was undertaken.
The airport has excellent highway access to its downtown location and thus remains a popular corporate and recreational airstrip. The terminal and other buildings have become multi-use in addition to airport operations. VML uses the terminal building as its headquarters in Kansas City and the National Airline History Museum is also located at MKC. The museum has a little bit of a TWA bend to it as many of the volunteers are retired TWA employees who still live in the area. General aviation gets plenty of coverage at the museum, too.
Although there have been other, bigger airports in the area for decades, one of the claims to fame for MKC is that it has often been the landing strip for Air Force One when the President of the United States has visited the area. On a regular basis, the airport’s use is divided in the following manner: 71% general aviation, 25% air taxi, 2% military, and less than 1% scheduled commercial flights. There is also rotary aircraft operations on top of fixed-wing.
No matter whether it’s a corporate jet with executives visiting the KC area or single-engine propeller aircraft taking travelers to regional recreational destinations, Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport is a great one to keep in mind when you are traveling to or through the Kansas City, Missouri area.
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