Airline Terminal Memories by Leroy Cook

Airline Terminal Memories

Saturday was a weird day. Advertised to be perfect, with light winds and rising temperatures, it proved once again that Kansas City’s forecast doesn’t always work for us. The City airports may have been clear, but Harrisonville, typically the transition point, had a 500-foot overcast and Butler was restricted to a mile or so of visibility. It took until 1 p.m. to get the sun to burn through the fog and, further south, Nevada stayed overcast all day. The weather, I always say, is what it is, not what it’s supposed to be.

The weekly traffic count was sparse, but varied in aircraft type. The usual crop of Army Guard Black Hawk helicopters came by, a Piper Archer and Cessna Skyhawk landed and an unidentified business jet made a touch-and-go Saturday afternoon. Jeff Lowe flew over from Clinton in his Aeronca 7DC Champ. Local trip takers were Les Gorden in his Beech Bonanza E35, Roy Conley in the Bonanza N35, Christian Tucker in his Cessna 140 and Kennon Nance in a Cessna 150.

Big news of the week around Kansas City has been the opening of MCI’s $1.5 billion airline terminal, replacing the shabby, neglected 50-year old circle terminals. Convenient as they were, the old A, B and C terminals lacked space for subsidizing retail stalls and today’s TSA body scans and strip searches. In the old days, it was great to be able to walk from your car to your airliner in a few steps, but progress has meant submission to sprawl. After being subjected to mile-long forced marches dragging a roll-aboard through Atlanta, O’Hare or DFW, it was always nice to get home to Kansas City’s straight-through deplaning. Now, ol’ Cow Town is inconveniently up-to-date, like everybody else.

My inaugural airline experience was on September 1, 1963, from Chicago to Kansas City aboard a Continental Airlines Boeing 707, landing at the old Municipal airport in the Downtown river bottoms, where the terminal building was about as long as the runway. We climbed down roll-up stairs in the open air to get off the plane. A short cab ride over the river to the bus station got me on the way back to my waiting family at the Butler Super Service bus stop.

The first time I landed at Mid-Continent International, as the Kansas City’s new jetport was first called, was in January 1966; there was no terminal building, just a control tower and big north-south runway that we could use for practice landings. The airlines hadn’t moved out to Platte County yet.  A half-dozen years later, I was flying passengers into MCI to drop them off to catch a flight; in those carefree days, we could park at a designated “air taxi” gate in each terminal and walk right up the stairs to deliver or retrieve airline passengers. Terrorism was unheard of, and customer service was still a priority.

The question from last week was concerning the standard atmosphere temperature lapse rate  or cooling as altitude increases.  It’s 3.5 degrees per thousand feet, so from a standard degrees at sea level, one reaches 32 degrees at 7,500 feet. Next week’s question is, how many inches tall are the required registration numbers on the side of an aircraft? Send your answers to