Kansas City International's Terminal A Has Been Closed Since January 8, 2014.

Kansas City International’s Terminal A Has Been Closed since January 8, 2014

Airline consolidation, the move to bigger planes, and trimming of under-performing flights has resulted in less need for gate space in all but a few privileged focus cities and hubs across the United States. Kansas City International Airport (MCI) or as we locals call it, “KCI,” is the 39th-busiest airport in the country and has seen the effects of this first-hand. As airlines began to sunset (we’ll miss you, Braniff, TWA, and Vanguard) and consolidation spread across the industry, it became apparent that it was time to consolidate terminals.

Terminal A seen from the ATC tower in August, 2012.

Terminal A seen from the ATC tower in August, 2012

On January 8, 2014, US Airways Flight 1948 departed Kansas City International’s Terminal A for Charlotte. This would be the last regularly scheduled operation out of the 42-year old structure. This was a bittersweet milestone for travelers of all sorts in our two-state metropolitan area, albeit for very different reasons. For those not in the know, our airport is comprised of three thin, horseshoe-shaped terminals. This was a revolutionary design for its day, but has proven a real challenge for airlines, passengers, and airport operations in recent history.

Consolidation aside, moving operations out of Terminal A allowed for clearing space for what many agree is a longer-term solution to ensure Kansas City remains competitive with its local peers: A single, modernized, consolidated terminal. More on that story and the perplexing controversy over this much-needed, PFC-funded infrastructure project some other time.

For nearly four years, this terminal has been out of reach of the public eye while the aviation industry has continued to work through its various consolidations. AirlineReporter was granted rare access to the terminal while awaiting the arrival of the TriStar Experience L-1011 late last month. Join us as we stroll down memory lane…

A Lufthansa 747-8 departing Frankfurt for LAX. - Photo: Brandon Farris / AirlineReporter

A Lufthansa 747-8 departing Frankfurt for LAX – Photo: Brandon Farris

I recently flew aboard two Lufthansa Boeing 747-8s. In doing so I was able to cross off a longstanding item on my AvGeek to-do list. Like most (all?) AvGeeks, I have long had a passion for the 747. Sure, there are plenty of great planes flying today, but there’s something about the Queen of the Skies that is inexplicably special. Despite having admired the 747 for the greater part of my life, this was the first time I flew aboard one. Did I mention it was upstairs in business class, both ways? This is the stuff AvGeek dreams are made of. I had extremely high expectations from years of envy and admiration. Let’s discuss how the queen held out, shall we?

The C-130H is on its sunset tour on active duty, but it will always provide a unique travel experience – Photo: David Lynn

I know many of you are used to reading fancy business class reviews on the newest aircraft with well-known airlines all over the world.  While those are all well and good (feel free to send me anytime) I felt it was important to share the experience of an aircraft that has carried millions of people all over the world for more than 40 years.

This aircraft caters to an elite type of passenger that is so special you can’t even buy your way on.  No, you have to work long and hard, and give up a lot, to get a seat on this amazing plane.  You can’t find this type of service on any other airline in the world.  If you want to talk about accommodations?  Let’s just say I guarantee you won’t find this type of comfort anywhere else.

This trip was scheduled to take place from Tokyo, Japan to Mansfield, Ohio, and if that seems like a strange city pair, you would be right.  But, being an AvGeek is all about special planes and special events.  In this case, the special plane was a C-130H Hercules, and the special event was its last flight in the active duty Air Force before being delivered to the National Guard.

That’s right, after 43 years of service all over the world, this beauty was moving on to a new life back in the United States, where it will continue to serve in new ways.  As you will see below, a 43-year-old airplane provides for a very unique and memorable experience.

Firefighters from the Port of Seattle remove a simulated casualty during the airport's recent triennial disaster drill.

Firefighters from the Port of Seattle transport a simulated casualty during the airport’s recent triennial disaster drill

The FAA requires airports to conduct a comprehensive disaster drill every three years. On July 12, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) did its thing, and it was quite a sight.

Volunteer "victims" hung out in a comfortable hangar, waiting for the drill to begin.

Volunteer “victims” hung out in a comfortable hangar, waiting for the drill to begin

Volunteer victims included employees of the airport, several airlines, airfield support companies, the FAA, and the TSA. They received elaborate makeup at a remote hangar in order to maximize the realism of the drill.

An old Boeing 757 fuselage mock-up, trucked in from Moses Lake, Wash., was placed between runways for the drill.

An old Boeing 757 fuselage mock-up, trucked in from Moses Lake, Wash., was placed between runways for the drill

Unlike the past two events I’ve covered, which were held on a runway that needed to be closed for an entire morning, this drill was held in a small valley between runway 34L and 34C, allowing most airport operations to run normally.

A new wooden staircase made the old fuselage section a bit easier to access.

A new wooden staircase made the old fuselage section a bit easier to access

Safety outweighs absolute realism, so a staircase was constructed to allow access to the fuselage to avoid any real injuries during the exercise.

Several "victims" were coached to drag their luggage with them, while others were asked to hang around the fuselage taking selfies to provide rescuers the opportunity to work around a couple of trending hazards.

Several “victims” were coached to drag their luggage with them, while others were asked to hang around the fuselage taking selfies to provide rescuers the opportunity to work around a couple of trending hazards.

The volunteer victims were instructed to provide realistic issues for rescuers to confront, ranging from dazed people dragging their luggage aimlessly around the scene, people with various injuries (or no injuries) slowing things down by trying to take selfies, people yelling and screaming, walking wounded, and more.

BONUS: My Day as a [Mock] Airline Accident Victim!

The exercise's faux victims didn't lack for realistic-looking trauma.

The exercise’s faux victims didn’t lack for realistic-looking trauma

 

An up-close look at a responding airport fire truck.

An up-close look at a responding airport fire truck

There was no shortage of equipment – more than 50 rescue vehicles turned up: airport fire trucks, ladder trucks, hazmat vehicles, police cars, ambulances, and more.

A right proper mess, that.

A right proper mess, that

 

There were plenty of rescuers, and plenty of faux victims for them to attend to

Dozens of police and fire agencies from across the region participated in the exercise, drawing an estimated 175 firefighters.

Even though they used a partial 757 fuselage, the exercise was designed to simulate the crash of a 737-sized aircraft with 150 passengers.

Training is an essential component of properly-functioning emergency services – it’s always comforting to see how well prepared these agencies are for a real disaster scenario.