We approached the B-25J Mitchell World War II bomber with high expectations of going up in the rumbling giant.
“Got any more room?”
“Sure, got room for one more.”
“I’ve got three here.”
“Oh, three, you know it’s three ninety-five, right?”
“Hmm…I figured there was a cost but…”
Indeed, the cost was three ninety-five as in $395 – each.
Well, the press release simply said the B-25J was “available for rides” without mentioning just how much. Let’s see – jingle, jingle – nope, that’s more coin than I have in any of these pockets.
In fact, there were many aircraft rides to be had Saturday during the Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport Expo. It cost $60 to go up in one of the University of Central Missouri planes and about $125 for a ride in the Fairchild PT-19 open-cockpit plane. Johnny Rowlands was there giving helicopter rides with his company, KC Copters.
My two boys and I had fun watching. We lurked around the Mitchell bomber, checked out the guns and remembered seeing her at the Whiteman Air Force Base air show not too long ago. As we ducked under its belly to look at the bombs docked in its bay, the editor from the Daily Star-Journal appeared.
“Can I borrow your boys?”
So, he instructs my youngest to stand here, look there, lean over, smile and so on. He then asks the crew if he could get my oldest into the front gunner’s seat.
“Can you wait a few minutes? We’re getting ready to go up.”
“Oh, it won’t take but a minute.”
So, he gets my son inside and pops a few more posed shots.
Anyway, seeking a ride in the Mitchell was just one reason why I wanted to attend the airport expo. I also wanted to see how the airport master plan was shaping up.
There are three new T-hangars built next to a large new tarmac. The hangars have 30 bays, 11 for the university and the rest for the public. Three more hangars are already planned to be built nearby to meet the high demand for space.
“Most of these were full pretty quick and I already got another guy who called me on another hangar,” said Tanner Rindels, the new airport director. “(The new hangars) just opened up less than a year ago and they’re already full.”
The university also has plans to build a fixed-base operator facility and expand the runway. Rindels said extending the main runway from 4,200 feet to 5,500 feet would open Skyhaven to larger cabin-class corporate jets – basically everything except airliners.
The airport now owns most of the necessary land for an expansion, except for the Skyhaven gas station and convenience store, which would have to be removed. But the expansion depends on funding – government, university and private funding.
In the meantime, Rindels said the airport stays busy, both with student flight training and commercial traffic.
Family Video officials land at Skyhaven. Lowe’s and Wal-Mart officials use the airport, and people from Carmike Cinemas come in a Leer-45 jet.
“We’ve had Jimmy John’s that flew in here,” Rindels said. “They looked at coming to the city because we had an airport.
“There’s several companies in town that utilize this airport. So, it’s a big economic impact for the community.”
Rindels said the expansion would help make the Warrensburg area more attractive to companies that own a large fleet of aircraft.
That would certainly be good news for our town – especially if, say, Target liked what it saw here. So, how about we annex out to the airport and maybe encourage development along U.S. 50.