Kansas City, MO

Kansas City's first airport was not downtown

CJ Coombs

Kaw Point in Kansas City, looking slightly north of due east.The original uploader was Americasroof at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

The above image is an aerial view of the airport to the left. Allegedly, consideration of the city's name for the airport was "Peninsula Field" due to the bend in the Missouri River that flows around the airport. Now named the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, the city-owned airport has had a few name changes since it first opened.

Richards Field

The first airport serving the Kansas City metropolitan area was called Richards Field. It was near the border of Kansas City and Raytown, Missouri. It was located by the southeast corner of Gregory Boulevard and Blue Ridge Boulevard. That's hard to imagine if you drive by that area often.

The field for the airport was established in 1922. The airport was named after a Kansas city aviator named John Francisco Richards II who died in Word War I. Richards Road which is adjacent to the downtown airport is also named after him, as is Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base where my family used to live upon transfer to Missouri.

Once a new airport was built downtown, the older airport was renamed Ong Field after aviator, William Ong. In 1949, the airport was abandoned and turned into a new subdivision called Gregory Heights. The lake that was nearby and in Gregory Heights was called Ong Lake during the 1950s.

There is a historical marker at 9063 Gregory Boulevard in Raytown, Missouri that marks the location of the old airfield.

Kansas City's downtown airport

In August 1927, a new airport was built in downtown Kansas City and dedicated by Charles Lindbergh. There was a crowd of 25,000 people to hear the speeches associated with the dedication of the airport. Lindbergh landed there in his own plane, the well-known Spirit of St. Louis. Amazing. Initially, the airport was named New Richards Field and changed to Kansas City Municipal Airport (MKC).

Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in background.Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the prominent tenants of this airport was Trans World Airlines (TWA) which also moved its headquarters to Kansas City in 1931. Due to the location of the airport, it was limited to any expansion. Airplanes coming in had to avoid the height of Quality Hill and the downtown skyline. When an FAA memo called it a dangerous airport during the early 1960s, construction of Kansas City International Airport would later ensue. That airport opened in 1972.

MKC's name was changed to Kansas City Downtown Airport in October 1977 and rededicated as Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport on the airport's 75th anniversary in August 2002. (Source.)

The concerns about the safety of using the downtown airport haven't stopped Air Force One that lands there when Presidents visit. It's also used for corporate and recreational purposes.

Some images that are associated with the downtown airport can be viewed in the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Central Library in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Thank you for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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