By Debbie Robinson
Flight 5029 to Kansas City at 9:28 a.m. today marks the first commercial flight from the new Joplin Regional Airport terminal.
Airport officials and city leaders were joined by U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt on Sunday afternoon to dedicate the $15 million terminal at 7331 N. Highway 43 and to open the doors to visitors for tours.
“One of the truly challenging jobs today is to run an airport in a community this size,” Blunt said. “Being able to fly into a community can be the difference if you have jobs or not.”
Blunt referred to the new terminal and the new $3.5 million air traffic control tower as the “front door” to the community.
“You want to make a good first impression, especially if you’ve got a great community,” he said. “The 1948 facility is not the best first impression.”
The new terminal and tower were needed, Blunt said, because the Federal Aviation Administration, which provided 90 percent of the construction costs, has tightened regulations, especially security, that are difficult to meet in older airports.
Blunt pointed out that 24 water towers can be seen from the air traffic control tower.
“That means there are lots of families that can be served by this airport,” he said.
Several hundred people toured the terminal, which is designed with a curved glass front, stone and brick.
The upstairs area features offices, a conference room and a training center that opens to an open-air deck facing the runways. A business center will offer space for the working traveler.
The 22,000-square-foot terminal also will house rental car companies, vending machines and seating.
Airport manager Steve Stockam said the city has seven airport employees, but about 75 people work at the airport, including those in private aviation.
Great Lakes Airlines, the city’s new federally subsidized carrier, will offer two daily flights to Kansas City, with plans to add a third flight next month. Passengers will fly in 19-seat aircraft.
Three years ago, the state of Missouri conducted a statewide evaluation of public-use airports and determined that the economic impact from Joplin’s airport on the region is about $20 million, according to information provided by airport officials.
Stockam justified the expense for the terminal.
“That’s federal tax dollars that are going to go somewhere,” he said. “If not us, then some other community would get them.”
Sue and Larry Cline, of Joplin, toured the terminal Sunday.
Larry Cline said his father was a truck driver who delivered the old air traffic control tower to Joplin when the 1948 terminal was under construction.
Both said they were impressed with the new terminal.
“It’s such as beautiful thing,” Sue Cline said.
The new terminal at the Joplin Regional Airport replaces the terminal that was built in 1948 and served as a campaign stop in 1960 for presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.
A large, black-and-white photograph of Kennedy’s visit is displayed in the lobby of the new terminal along with other photographs.
By Debbie Robinson
- Joplin Metro
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