Kansas City Aviation Department
The Kansas City Aviation Department owns and operates Kansas City International Airport and Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. The Aviation Department's mission is to provide outstanding airport services in a safe and cost-effective manner for the benefit of citizens, visitors, airlines and customers. The department is an enterprise fund department of the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and is supported wholly by airport user charges. No general tax fund revenues are used for the administration, promotion, operation or maintenance of the airports in the system.
Kansas City International Airport (MCI)
Kansas City International Airport (IATA code: MCI) was built by the City of Kansas City, Missouri and opened in 1972. The MCI complex spans more than 10,000 acres, and its three runways can accommodate up to 139 aircraft operations per hour. Uncongested air and ground space, short taxi time, and a low weather-related closure/cancellation rate are why MCI consistently ranks among the lowest in delays of all U.S. airports. Three runways, two of them parallel with 6,575 feet of separation, Category III instrument Landing System and other features help keep operations smooth in even the worst of weather. New surfaces on the runways, taxiways and terminal aprons, along with ongoing infrastructure improvements, enhance the airport's efficiency and convenience to air carriers. The new terminal opened on February 28, 2023 and replaced the three, separate original terminals.
On-airport Fixed-Base Operator Signature Flight Support offers basic fueling, charter and ground transportation services. Many regional aircraft operators merely fly into Kansas City International Airport and are shuttled to the airline terminals to be transported to their final destination outside the region.
Why is MCI referred to as KCI?
Many know Kansas City International Airport by the acronym KCI. So for years, airport users have wondered how Kansas City International Airport received the "MCI" identifier code instead of "KCI." Although the answer may appear somewhat illogical, there is a simple explanation.
Kansas City International Airport was originally called Mid-Continent International Airport, or MCI, and the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) adopted it as the airport's designator code. For many years, MCI served as the landing strip for the TWA overhaul base and as an alternate airport for the old Kansas City Municipal Airport. When Municipal Airport (now Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport) was deemed too small and unable to grow, terminals and additional runways were built at what is now Kansas City International Airport.
Prior to the new airport's dedication in October 1972, City Councilman Jeff Hillelson suggested that the airport be called Kansas City International Airport to better identify it with the city, and the Kansas City Council agreed. The only problem, however, was that the MCI designator code was already registered in many navigational carts, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at one time reserved all call letters with "K" or "W" for radio and television stations, meaning that KCI was not an option.
In the past, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its stringent naming regulations regarding identifiers made the situation even more complex. Despite being denied the use of certain letters, the FAA's solution was simple. In cases when airports' names begin with "K" or "W," the identifier would begin with the second letter (i.e., Key West EYW). Without the use of the K, the FAA flip-flopped Kansas City, MO., for MKC, which explains the Downtown Airport's identifier.
Because of FAA and FCC regulations, KCI will likely never have a different designator code unless there is a major effort to redesign the federal coding system. Incidentally, KCI isn't the only airport that has confusion with acronyms. Mid Continent International Airport in Wichita, Kan., uses ICT as its code because MCI is taken by KCI. Actually, KCI is the code for an airport in Kono, Indonesia, which does not operate under U.S. regulations.
Once an identifier is assigned to an airport, it is unlikely that it will ever change. There have been a few cases in which the FAA has given airports permission to change their identifiers, but there must be severe safety reason to change the code, and those instances are rare.
Kansas City Wheeler Downtown Airport (MKC)
Only a handful of major cities on the continent enjoy a bustling general aviation facility adjacent to the downtown business center — Kansas City is one of them. Dedicated by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (MKC) is the city's first airport and still one of its busiest. It served as home to commercial aviation as Municipal Airport until space ran out in the late 1960s. Kansas City International Airport was built and opened later opened in 1972. Municipal was renamed Kansas City Downtown Airport and became a general aviation facility for corporate, charter and recreational flyers. It was later renamed Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, and is also sometimes called Kansas City Wheeler Downtown Airport.
Located on 695 acres, MKC is just across the Missouri River from Kansas City's business center. Airport users have easy access to all interstate highways that serve the metropolitan area, as well as other major thoroughfares. The airport also serves as an ideal refueling stop for air travelers thanks to its central geographic location. Downtown Airport continues to be a landing and departure site for visiting foreign dignitaries, business executives, flight departments, charters, sports teams, the military and VIPs.
In the shadows of the downtown skyline, up to 700 aircraft per day take off or land at the airport - everything from single-engine propeller craft to sleek corporate jets. The facility and its control tower are open 24 hours a day and consistently rank highly among private and corporate pilots for their full range of service to general aviation. Fixed-base operators service nearly 300 based aircraft, as well as itinerant and charter aircraft, offering fuel, full maintenance, aircraft rentals, sales and flight training.