Lee's Summit Journal

Airport open house draws families, aircraft fans

David Patrick, Christine Lauderdale and their child took a look at a new plane at the sixth annual Lee's Summit Municipal Airport Open House.
David Patrick, Christine Lauderdale and their child took a look at a new plane at the sixth annual Lee's Summit Municipal Airport Open House. Special to the Journal

As the storm clouds over Lee’s Summit gave way, people began to gather at the sixth annual Lee’s Summit Airport Open House.

This year’s festivities included new vendors and first-time visitors, said John Ohrazda, airport manager.

Airport employees managed the parking and provided a shuttle service to get people from their vehicles to the venue. As families and friends were shuttled to the airport, they were greeted by the sound of a helicopter blades cutting through the air.

“We have done events like this in the past,” Ohrazda said. “But this one is dedicated exclusively to citizens coming to see the airport . . . There are helicopter rides going on, we have various aircraft out here that people can come and sit in to see what it is like to be in an airplane.”

Within the next four months, the airport will begin drafting a new master plan and new business plan, Ohrazda said. He added that the current plan is more than 20 years old, and it is common for a new plan to be drafted every two decades.

In the last three years, Ohrazda said, the airport has been under construction for several projects.

“We rebuilt and lengthened the primary runway in 2017, and in 2018 we built and relocated the parallel taxiway as well as built two new hangar buildings that house 28 aircrafts.”

Attractions such as face painters, cotton candy vendors, a classic car show, and booths set up for businesses, nonprofits, and aviation clubs filled the grounds. Several of the pilots and aviation clubs that attended the event visited from outside of the Lee’s Summit area.

“We are here every year,” said Bill Jones, membership officer for Wing Flying Club headquartered at the municipal airport. The Club is an equity-based ownership program where 34 pilots own two aircrafts.

Jones was camped out by a plane he called a Piper Saratoga. He said it could hold 105 gallons of fuel and fly at 145 knots, or 155 miles per hour. He added that it could make the trip from Lee’s Summit to Destin, Florida, in five hours.

Jones shared stats and described the plane’s ability while explaining the buttons, dials and switches on the dash of his aircraft. He demonstrated that turning the controls would cause the flaps on the wings to rise and fall, which excited the children in the pilot’s seat.

“I thought this would be a good family event,” said Aaron Dawson as his children conversed with Jones. “Plus, I have always been interested in aviation so you didn’t have to twist my arm to get me out here.”

In the center of the event, Jim McGirr helped people on and off a Huey 970 that was used as a troop transport in the Vietnam conflict. McGirr is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 243. He and fellow veterans were educating the public on his equipment and collecting donations.

“We take donations and use them for upkeep for the Huey,” McGirr said. “It was vandalized a couple of years ago. They damaged windows and equipment in there. We also donate what is left to hurricane victims.”