When I learned that Kansas City International (MCI) would become the location of a mass airplane storage site, I ignored it. COVID-19 has brought unprecedented and rapid change upon us all. And we are all coping with it differently. For me, rather than accept the fact that my passion has ground to a halt, I have done my best to ignore the bad news while focusing internally on my family and friends.
But history is in the making and after a few weeks of airplane stockpiling I had to go see. I don’t know what I expected. I was excited to visit the airport for the first time in months. But when we drove past the threshold of runway 19L the site was… heartbreaking. Words truly cannot describe the feeling of seeing over a hundred planes in “active storage” lining a once busy runway and taxiway at an airport that has seen consistent and impressive growth over the past few years.
Parked Plane Stats:
I called my good friend Nick Benson, chief AvGeek over at JetTip to see just how many planes have been parked at Kansas City International since the pandemic took hold.
Glamour Shot of a OneJet Plus ERJ – Photo: OneJet
Note: We flew OneJet Plus and wrote this piece right before the airline abruptly went belly up. Their “indefinite operational hold” provided no warning to customers, on-ground employees, or airports. The airline’s end stranded travelers across their network, including at least one flyer in Kansas City who had to make last-minute, costly alternate arrangements via a different airline. While we’ve consistently found ourselves to be quite fond of the unique OneJet product, the best service is always the one you can rely on.
That said, we’ve decided to move forward with this piece because OneJet’s product was excellent, and it leaves a void. Here’s hoping another cheeky upstart will step forward to fill the gap in service between mid-sized cities. So without further adieu, a flight review for a defunct airline.
OneJet Plus Review- Circa mid-2018:
Raise your hand if you get excited at the prospect of flying on an E-145. Yeah, Ok. Non-starter for most folks. I completely understand. Just the mention of an ERJ throws me back to a grim period in my own life where I was flying 145s far too often via the Continental brand. For many, the ERJ conjuresÂ up bad memories. But what if I told you the spunky little airline upstart OneJet was doing their damndest to make lemonade out of these otherwise sour planes?
Remember OneJet? We flew on them in 2015Â and were among the first outlets to offer up a review. Don’t care toÂ read the old article? No problem. In a sentence: It was love at first flight. When I first heard the company planned to offer a net-new ERJ product alongside their established, plush, and well-received Hawker 400s, I was solidly skeptical. If the Hawker 400 is a Mercedes, then the ERJ is an AMC Gremlin.
The TriStar Experience L-1011. A STEM experience like no other awaits.
8:30 AM, it’s a frigid spring morning. Three yellow school buses pull up to the curb of Kansas City International Airport’s TerminalÂ A. This isn’t aÂ rare sight; local schools often send sport and academic teams on trips to compete. But this day is different. The buses, filled to capacity with girls age 10-13, come to a stop outside a shuttered airport terminal which for years has not seen passenger traffic. These young minds would indeed be boarding a plane for a multi-hour experience, but the goal was not to travel. Instead, today’s visit to the airport is to learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering,Â and math) through hands-on experiences aboard an ultra-rare, airworthy L-1011 wide-body aircraft.
RELATED:Â THE RARE LOCKHEED L-1011 TRISTAR RETURNS TO THE SKIES ONCE MORE
The plane, which last served as a mobile hospital, arrived in Kansas City, MO last year thanks to TriStar Experience, a local non-profit. The organizationÂ seeks out rare planes, with the goal of inspiring the next generation to seek STEM and aviation careers. Readers may recall this is the same organization which rescued and restored TWA’s Wings of Pride plane which is currently on display in partnership with the TWA Museum at the Downtown Kansas City Airport.
Inside the airplane-hospital turned STEM lab. Amazingly roomy!
RELATED:Â TWA WINGS OF PRIDE PAINT BAY TIME-LAPSE AND TRISTAR UPDATES
One of KCI’s new electric buses – Photo: Kansas City Aviation Department
Today, countries all around the world are celebrating Earth Day. We recognize that transportation accounts for the vast majority of climate-changing emissions, and for what it’s worth, the industry and its supporting partners are starting to as well. Some could argue that the change is coming too slowly and that’s hardly contestable. The solution to climate change isn’t something we will solve overnight, or, apparently, in the 48 years since the first Earth Day.Â However, we at AirlineReporter are optimists and do our best to highlight the positives wherever we can. Enjoy this story about how a medium-sized, midwest airport is taking steps to sprinkle a small bit of sustainability into their own operations.
Late last year my hometown airport quietly deployed four brand-new 100%-electric buses to their fleet. Why should AirlineReporter readers care? Because being first is important. The Kansas City airport was the first U.S. airport to deploy all-electric buses alongside their existing fleet. Not Portland, not San Francisco, nor Austin – Kansas City. An airport in a so-called â€œred stateâ€ beat dozens of others on a short-list of airports in progressive and environmentally-friendly states. As a plug-in driver myself, Iâ€™m proud to see Kansas City International Airport lead its peers. Excellence deserves praise, and thatâ€™s exactly what I intend to do.
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 privilegedÂ focus cities and hubs across the United States. Kansas City International Airport (MCI) or as we locals call it, “KCI,” is theÂ 39th-busiest airportÂ in the country and has seen the effects of this first-hand. As airlines began to sunset (we’ll miss you, Braniff,Â 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
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,Â 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-1011Â late last month. Join us as we stroll down memory lane…