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Pilots share mixed opinions on possible new KCI terminal

Posted at 10:17 PM, Nov 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-06 23:43:50-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A day before the vote on the future of Kansas City International Airport, metro pilots weighed in on the issue and expressed mixed reactions on if a new terminal is needed.

Wes McCullough, who retired as a commercial pilot in 1998, flew for TWA for more than 30 years.

During his career, he said the airport offered good accommodations for flying.

“MCI is a great airport,” he explained. “We have all the runways and all the entrance structure that you need." 

Almost every aviation group and pilot contacted by 41 Action News on Monday complemented the airport for its multiple runways and taxiways, recently resurfaced grounds, and updated lighting system.

However, disagreement came when discussing how to address issues inside the facility.

McCullough believed calls for improved dining and shopping options could be addressed through a renovation project.

“I don't think the primary purpose of an airport is to sell t-shirts. It should be for passenger travel,” he explained. “Part of the repairs of the building could be providing more space for vendors who want to feed people or sell them a t-shirt." 

McCullough, who now works as an aviation instructor and private pilot, said he would vote against the proposed new terminal on Tuesday.

“It's a very good airport to fly in and out of,” he explained. “The right solution would be to go back and make the repairs that are needed."

City leaders have said that renovating the current terminals at KCI could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Other pilots who spoke to 41 Action News on Monday came out in support of a new terminal.

“Where MCI is a laggard compared to peers is the passenger experience,” said a current commercial pilot who spoke on condition of anonymity due his airline’s media policy. “The terminal congestion slows the de-planning process and boarding process.”

The pilot added that his fellow crew members often have to experience the issues flyers complain about at KCI.

“We have to wait in line just like the passengers to utilize the facilities,” he explained. “Having a quick 30 minute turn between flights can make it difficult depending on how long the restroom lines are and to get a quick bite to eat.”

Another pilot of a major airline also described issues with the current design.

“It’s an inefficient terminal layout (can’t park planes on both sides of terminal), baggage claim is slow, limited food options for crew and passengers,” he tweeted. “We need to move forward with a terminal design that makes airlines want to expand out of here.”

The vote on KCI’s future will be open for KCMO residents.

Polls open at 6 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.