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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Traffic starting to pick up

What’s Up

By LeRoy Cook 

Now that the cold and snow of last week are but a distant memory, pilots are once again taking to the air after digging out of their snow cave hangars. Airport Manager Chris Hall had eager-beaver transient pilots calling him the day after the storm, wanting to know if our runway was open. Not too many places were plowed at that point.

 The City street crew did a very commendable job of clearing the ramp, main taxiway and runway on Wednesday, although it was still too cold to start an airplane. Some of the better prepared owners came by, but it took until Friday to get temperatures up to our starting levels. Curtis Grimes flew a Cessna Skylane down to Memphis, TN from Harrisonville on Friday, and the only airport open there was Memphis International. The airline terminal had no water in service so all flights were cancelled, leaving him with his choice of the three parallel runways.

 Curtis flew his 1947 Cessna 140 down to Butler on Saturday, and Bryce Fisher took a Cessna 150 up. The main training news of the week was the first solo flight of Brandon Bonar, who made three unaccompanied circuits of the traffic pattern on Saturday morning, proving once and for all his official status as a real student pilot. Congratulations, Brandon; keep up the good work.

 It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but Bombardier Aircraft announced last week that it’s shutting down the Lear Jet production line in Wichita. Bill Lear established his company there in 1964, but sales of the Lear Jet had been few and far between in recent years, so we’re seeing the end of an era. Always the hottest performing business jet around, Lears had a fairly small cabin, and buyers opted for the more-flexible Cessna Citations or the cheaper Embrarer jets from Brazil. I’ll always regret not buying a ticket to fly on Sun Airlines, who ran a circuit with Lears out of Kansas City to Joplin to Springfield and back.

 United Airlines had bad luck over the weekend with one of its Boeing 777-200s while it was taking off from Denver en route to Hawaii. One of the big turbofan engines exploded during climbout, leaving cowling and engine parts falling into residential areas below. The crew did a good job of getting the heavy jet back to the airport, and no one on the airplane or on the ground was any worse for wear. There’s supposed to be a “containment ring” on turbine engines to prevent debris  from hitting the plane or escaping if a fan blade or turbine wheel comes apart, but it obviously didn’t work this time. I’ve never been comfortable crossing big water on just two engines, but four-engine airliners are about a thing of the past. It’s cheaper to operate an airliner with two 100,000 pound thrust engines than with four smaller ones.

This Saturday morning will be the appointed time for the Fliars Club to meet in solemn assembly, at 0700 hours on the Butler Airport ramp. Any interested parties will determine the breakfast destination and share the month’s experiences.  

The question from last week was about why Kansas City’s Downtown airport used to be listed under “T” in the index. It was because it was officially “The Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport.” The same thing was done with Atlanta’s “The Hartfield International” airport. It’s no longer done that way. For next week, does anyone know what eccentric visionary Bill Lear named his daughter when she was born? You can send your answers to