Fairfax Airport

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Fairfax Airport
Fairfax Airport from south. The runways still exist. The GM Plant is on top of them
Airport type Military/Private
In use World War II
Coordinates 39°8′53.39″N 94°35′58.96″W / 39.1481639°N 94.5997111°W / 39.1481639; -94.5997111
Fairfax Airport is located in Kansas
Fairfax Airport
Fairfax Airport
Location within Kansas
This article is about the former Kansas City, Kansas, airport that closed in 1985 after operating near the 1945-87 Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac plant (razed 1989). For the current General Motors installation which replaced the Fairfax Municipal Airport, see General Motors Fairfax Assembly Plant. For the entire history of the airfield and the World War II Air Force Plant, see Fairfax Field.

Fairfax Municipal Airport[1] was an airport in Kansas City, Kansas from 1921 until it closed in 1985. It is most famously associated with the construction of most of the B-25 Mitchell bombers.

The airport was directly across the Missouri River from Kansas City Downtown Airport and served as an air strip for plane manufacturers and repairs in the city's Fairfax district, as well as postal delivery. Passenger service in the area was handled by its Missouri sister (although Braniff briefly used it). Its IATA designation was KCK.

The airport was used by Harry Truman when he flew back to Missouri during his Presidency.


It started as a small strip in 1921 for an American Legion air meet. E.J. Sweeney opened a flying school there in 1925, and it was called Sweeney Airport. In 1928 the Wood Brothers Corporation acquired the airport and renamed it Fairfax. In 1931 it was the home of the American-Eagle Lincoln Aircraft company producing the American Eaglet series of aircraft.[2] In 1941 the city of Kansas City, Kansas, purchased the airport for $600,000 from the Kansas City Industrial Land Company (a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad which had trains that ran along its edge) . It was to be used by North American Aviation to build 6,608 of the country's B-25 Mitchell bombers during World War II -- 2/3 of all B-25's built during war. The B-25 plant was acquired by General Motors for the production of Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs after World War II. For a short time General Motors also produced license built Republic F-84F Thunderstreaks in this facility.

TWA acquired the former North American Aviation Modification Center, also located on the field, after the war to operate an overhaul base for its planes. TWA later moved its overhaul base to the Kansas City Overhaul Base at Mid-Continent Airport, which was to become Kansas City International Airport.

Air mail coming to Kansas City in the 1920s was postmarked Kansas City, Kansas, because it was flown into the airport and then trucked to Missouri. In 1950 Mid-Continent Airlines got a lucrative contract to deliver airmail on the North Central Route #106. It operated out of Fairfax. Following the 1951 flood, the airline and mail were moved to the new Kansas City airport in Platte County, Missouri which was named for its postal mailing address of Mid-Continent. Although the airline was to be acquired by Braniff, the new airport was to keep its Mid-Continent name and today still keeps its IATA designation of MCI.

The eastern boundary of the airport resided along the Missouri River which is also the current state line. The Kansas/Missouri state line was originally defined by the river in this location. However, the river changed course in an 1880 flood, leaving much of the land occupied by the future Fairfax Airport as an island in the river which neither state could claim. Locals nicknamed it "Goose Island." The area was later formally declared part of Kansas by the United States Supreme Court, and the location of the state line became fixed, regardless of any future changes in the course of the river.

The airport was actually larger area-wise and had longer (and more) runways than the Kansas City downtown airport. Its runway configuration included 4 runways for most of its years of operation. The longest runway 17/35 was 7,301 feet when it closed. The new General Motors Fairfax Assembly plant was built near the center of the old runway complex. The ends of most of the runways, as well as many of the taxiways are still visible.

The airport formally closed on April 1, 1985 in preparation for construction of the new General Motors plant. The final flight at Fairfax Airport was made by Hugh A. "Holly" Hollinger. As the rubber tires of Hollinger's Cessna 402 lifted off the concrete runway at 11:59:59pm,[citation needed] the airport formally closed its runways behind him and on April 1, 1985 the land was added to the Fairfax District industrial area.

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  • On September 15, 1945, a Douglas C-47B-45-DK United States Army Air Force plane headed for Lowry Field in Denver crashed on take off on the north bank of the Missouri River killing all 24 aboard.[3][4]
  • On June 20, 1954, a Douglas DC-3A belonging to Zantop Air Transport crashed while on a non-precision Runway 21 ADF (NDB) Approach to Fairfax Airport Kansas City, KS. killing all three on board.[5]
  • On March 5, 1963, the airport was the starting point for the plane crash that killed singer Patsy Cline in a Piper Comanche. Cline who had been in Kansas City for a concert at Memorial Hall had been delayed on takeoff for one day due to the airport being fogged in. Her plane which left about 2 p.m. stopped for refueling somewhere in Missouri, stopped again at Dyersburg, Tennessee and then crashed near Camden, Tennessee about 90 miles from its destination of Nashville at about 6:20 p.m.[6]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

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