If you’ve ever seen the joy of a child as he or she watches an airplane gliding through the sky, jumping and pointing with wonderment, then you can just about imagine the joy long-time Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport Manager John Ohrazda is experiencing right now as major improvements are wrapping up at the Airport.
When you ask John about the Airport, and especially all of the construction that has taken place over the past few years, he gets a wide grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He is downright giddy with excitement about what the improvements mean for the Airport and the community. In what feels like a serendipitous turn, the improvements were complete just as the Airport celebrated its 40th anniversary in September 2017. “That old adage “˜you’ve come a long way, baby’, perfectly describes where the Airport is today,” says Ohrazda with that tell-tale grin, as he reflects on all of the changes he has seen at the Airport. “There’s never a dull moment.”
Among the recent improvements are: a 5,500-foot grooved concrete runway with 60,000 pound aircraft capacity and a 4,000-foot crosswind runway; improved airfield lighting; and a 40,000-square-foot heated hangar space now available for rent for business and corporate aircraft or itinerant stays. The Airport can now accommodate corporate aircraft that require a longer runway, which has long been seen as an essential tool for attracting businesses to the Lee’s Summit area.
The Airport has been preparing for this moment for decades, and it can’t help but feel like everything is finally coming together. It’s a testament to community leaders through the years who recognized the Airport’s potential, adopted a plan, and were doggedly determined to stick with it to the end.
In the 1960s, several plans identified Lee’s Summit as an ideal location for an airport. With this in mind, and recognizing that an airport would be a valuable asset to the growing community, the City purchased the Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport in 1977 from resident Bill McComas, who had developed a small private airport on land he owned in northern Lee’s Summit. Since that time, the Airport grew steadily, both in land area and customers as several runway extensions took place. In 1996, the City began exploring the possibility of improving the Airport’s north/south runway by extending it from 4,014 feet to 5,500 feet to accommodate more corporate traffic. In 2015, the City received a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fund the earthwork for the runway improvements, and in 2016, the City received an additional FAA grant to complete the paving necessary for the runway improvements.
With its convenient location near downtown Kansas City, as well as major highways, the Airport is just right for corporate professionals who need to quickly fly in and out of the metropolitan Kansas City area.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean commercial airliners can fly in. The typical commercial airliner can weigh more than 200,000 pounds; the Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport can now accommodate corporate jets weighing in at no more than 60,000 pounds. Approximately 50,000 take-offs and landings occur annually at the Airport, which is the equivalent of about 137 operations daily, and those numbers are expected to increase due to the recent runway improvements.
Impressively, even more changes line the horizon. Additional FAA grants have been received to complete taxiway improvements and relocate hangars, and with recent positive signs such as an increase in businesses interested in developing hangars at the Airport, it would seem the sky’s the limit.
If you haven’t visited the Airport recently, now’s a great time. Sit for a few minutes and you’ll probably see a plane gliding down out of the clouds. We’ll bet you’ll feel a little of that joy, too.
The Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport is located at 2751 NE Douglas St. in Lee’s Summit. For more information, visit LSAirport.net or call 969-1800.