Retirement Age: Wichita Finishes Demolition of 65-Year-Old Terminal

Terminal signage at Wichita's airport. (Photo: Ian McMurtry)

As Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport continues to be the leader in Kansas’ commercial aviation sector, the last signs of the former Wichita Mid-Continent Airport will come down this week. The airport has started final demolition of the old airport building after the new terminal building was completed in 2015. Even before the new terminal was opened, small work was done removing portions of the western side of the western concourse due to the close proximity of the old and new structures.

After 2015, when airline operations were transferred, work accelerated as the old two concourse terminal would be demolished from with the airside and working towards the landside. Conco Contruction would lead the operation as various signage and interior portions of the old terminal were sold off as the airport stripped the old structure of any salvageable goods. Wichita also had to remove their airport offices from the old terminal which would lead to the prioritization of demolishing the airside area of the terminal first.

In the years since, work has been done to remove electrical wiring, asbestos, and interior features that would slow demolition. Now, after nearly four years since airline operations moved, the final destruction of the terminal will take place over the week with the remaining exterior structure coming down.

While the old structure has run its course, it has played a key role in sustaining aviation for the ‘Aviation Capital of the World’ for over five decades and was the original terminal for the originally named Wichita Municipal Airport after the city was removed from the McConnell Air Force Base in the 1950s.

The airport would go through expansion projects to meet demand with the final version featuring two six-gate concourses. The terminal has welcomed the jet age to Wichita and seen various airlines including Northwest, Vanguard, Trans World and Braniff International all pass through before fading into history. The airport’s name itself also faded into history with the change of terminals with the old structure’s Wichita Mid-Continent Airport name changing to the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport when the new terminal opened.

Despite being the first commercial terminal to be torn down in Wichita not all of it will disappear. Most of the 65-year-old structure will be knocked down but a lone portion of the wing that housed the ticket counter will remain standing and is due to be overhauled to house airport operations and vehicles. The new area opened up by removing the terminal will create an employee parking lot and aircraft deicing pad.

The airport has also preserved the plaques that dedicated the original terminal and its expansion projects. The plaques can be observed by passengers on the landside portion of the terminal under the northern escalators with the newest plaque dedicating the current structure facing outward towards the public. Although the brick terminal that housed a lot of Wichita’s history has faded into rubble, the new terminal has already welcomed a new face in Alaska Airlines and a returning carrier in Frontier as the city hopes this trend of attracting carriers helps fuel ever increasing traffic through the now glass dominated structure.

Ian McMurtry

Although Ian McMurtry was never originally an avgeek, he did enjoy watching US Airways aircraft across western Pennsylvania in the early 2000s. He lived along the Pennsylvania Railroad and took a liking to trains but a change of scenery in the mid-2000s saw him shift more of an interest into aviation. He would eventually express this passion by taking flying lessons in mid-Missouri and joining AirlineGeeks in 2013. Now living in Wichita, Kansas, Ian is in college majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in business administration at Wichita State University.
Ian McMurtry