The New Wichita Municipal Airport – A $10 Million Model Facility Built From Scratch in 3 1/2 Years

This article discusses the construction of the new Wichita Municipal Airport, which would later become Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. This article was written by Emory L. Cox, who was the Director on the Board of Park Commissioners in 1954. The article is a reprint of the original which appeared in the October 1954 issue of the Kansas Government Journal in Topeka, Kansas.
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Changing the Airport Name From Wichita Mid-Continent Airport to Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport

On October 8, 2013, a citizens group called Citizens for Eisenhower Airport presented a petition with 1,573 signatures to the Wichita City Council in favor of renaming the Wichita Airport to Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower International Airport.

On November 5, 2013, the Wichita City Council discussed in detail the costs and reasons of the airport name change.  The City Council moved to appoint a naming committee.

On March 4, 2014, the Wichita City Council voted 5-2 in favor of changing the name to Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport and directed staff to begin implementation work including the development of documents for Federal recognition.

A resolution to change the name of the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport to the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National airport was adopted on April 8, 2014. The Federal Aviation Administration officially changed the name on November 13, 2014.

On January 26, 2015, the airport officially began using the new name and unveiled the new airport logo.

The name, Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, pays tribute to Eisenhower’s rich history of encouraging and supporting military and civilian aviation and aerospace activities, which are the foundation of our community as the Air Capital of the World.

Eisenhower considered Kansas his home state.  His library, museum, and boyhood home are all located in Abilene, Kansas – and we are proud that Wichita is home to the first and only airport in the United States named in honor of him.

In the early 1950s, when the Air Force made Wichita move its airport out of what is now McConnell Air Force Base, there was a lot of legal and political wrangling between the city and the federal government over how much funding the feds would provide to the city to build this airport.  As the story goes, after years of lawsuits and appeals, a gentleman from Wichita named Earl Schaefer, who had a long and rich history in Wichita aviation circles jumped into the struggle behind the scenes.  Mr. Schaefer was a West Point classmate of President Eisenhower, and the legend goes that he contacted the President about the problems the city was having.  As a result, within 2 days of Eisenhower being sworn in as president on January 20, 1953, mysteriously the US Justice Department dropped its challenges to the city’s lawsuit, and the city received all of the funding it needed to complete the construction of this airport.  So, if there ever was a strong connection between this airport, this city, and IKE, this was it!

The Airport Today

Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport is a small hub air carrier and general aviation complex, providing accommodations for all aircraft, as well as the latest innovations in passenger convenience, safety and efficiency at Kansas’ largest airport. The practical annual airfield capacity is 500,000 operations. Current operations are 43 percent of capacity. The terminal building is comprised of 194,881 square feet. A $6 million renovation of the terminal was completed in 1989.

The Wichita Airport Authority is responsible for directing the management of Wichita Eisenhower National Airport and Colonel James Jabara Airport. In fall of 1999, there was a change in the governance of the airports. The previous semi-autonomous, nine-member administrative board was replaced with a 13-member advisory board. The Wichita City Council is now the Authority Board.

Wichita Eisenhower National Airport continues to be an integral part of the total economy of south-central Kansas. Tenants under contract with the Airport Authority, including the various agencies of the federal government – as well as the airlines – number over 70.

Revenues generated from the Airport are used to cover operating expenses, debt service and part of the capital improvements. Airport funds are not used for purposes other than airport-related expenditures. The majority of non-revenue-producing capital improvements on Eisenhower National Airport is financed from the Airport Improvement Program, administered by the Federal Aviation Administration. The current operating budget is just under $17 million, and the net revenue budget is $20 million.

The Authority has used double-barreled general obligation bond funding for capital improvements at the Eisenhower National and Jabara Airports since 1969, and has matched these funds with approximately $187.3 million of FAA Airport Improvement Program funds. This low cost method of financing has served the airports well. The Airport Improvements will be in keeping with a sound master plan of development for both airports and will be consistent with the FAA policies.

General aviation is served by specialized retailers, who provide aircraft-related accessories, service, rental, storage and flight training. Two general aviation manufacturers are located adjacent to the airport and maintain access agreements for the use of public facilities, as well as provide customer service at their respective locations. Three fixed-base operators (FBOs) provide a complete range of services, including aircraft repair, refurbishing, maintenance, sales, fueling and charters:   Beechcraft, Yingling Aircraft and Wichita Airport Facilities.  There are approximately 270 general aviation aircraft based at Wichita Eisenhower National.