I’ve always known that the aviation industry had a strong connection to Wichita, but visiting there really solidified that for me. I was only in town for a few days with the Results Junkies North American Tech Tour, but we got to see quite a bit. From an aviation geek perspective, here are my random thoughts:
The new airport terminal is beautiful. I’ve visited a lot of small towns this year and been in some pretty nondescript airports. This was most certainly not that. Floor to ceiling stainless steel, modern glass walls on the jet bridges. The shape of a wing can be seen here and there in the architecture. Definitely impressive.
On the upper mezzanine, a detailed history of the aviation roots in the industry. This includes condensed stories of Beechcraft, Cessna, LearJet, Stearman (a predecessor to Boeing) and plenty more.
Back in the 40’s, Boeing’s facility next to the airport turned out planes at a crazy pace in the run-up to and through the war. At one point, a take-off or landing occurred every 90 seconds at the airport. Wow!
There’s a memorial to 9/11 just prior to the security entrance. It’s an interesting remembrance. Apparently, two TSA officers worked with New York officials to transfer a piece of twisted steel from the World Trade Center to the Wichita airport. You can reach out and touch a small piece of the damage that occurred on that fateful day.
For those traveling with children, there’s even a kids play area tucked away at one of the corners of the concourse.
The old concourse sits next door, idle. It looks exactly like what I would have expected.
The airport was impeccably clean and easy to navigate. I like my home airport of Washington-Dulles, much more than most folks do. But, I’d have no problem trading it for an airport as pleasant as Wichita.
We also got a chance to peek at the NIAR (National Institution For Aviation Resarch) facility at Wichita State University. NIAR does a host of testing for various aviation manufacturers. Whether it’s a piece of a wing or a seat, they perform a wide variety of tests. We were allowed to spend some time in a closed-door crash test of some coach seats. Unfortunately, no matter how much I begged, they wouldn’t let me take any pictures of that. But, you can bet as an aviation geek I sure tried. It was a pretty cool experience to watch them set up.
From there it was on to a separate testing lab with dedicated stations for testing cushions, fasteners, composite materials, etc. This is all very “nuts and bolts” aviation stuff. They’re building an innovation center right now in between the NIAR building we visited and Airbus’ offices. There’s a bunch of cool things planned when that’s off the ground (and we were allowed to snap a few pics).
I’ve been sleep-walking through a really busy travel year, so I wasn’t expecting to be knee deep in fun aviation geek stuff. It definitely made Wichita one of my favorite stops on the tour.
Why Wichita? Technology, and Donuts
And, just in case you’re wondering what I do on the road, here’s a few minutes of our time in Wichita (including, of course, donuts):
The post Wichita-Air Capital of The World was published first on Pizza in Motion