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Wheels Up at Kansas City

When opened on November 21, 1972, the three-terminal Kansas City International airport (KCI) was considered to be at the forefront of modern aviation. With runways designed for jumbo jets and visions of supersonic travel, it was an early example of the ‘drive-to-gate’ terminal design.

A not dissimilar layout was used for a new terminal at Cologne/Bonn (CGN) in Germany which opened in March 1970, having been designed in the late 1960s. Also from the same era, plans for a new airport at Hamburg were drawn up using the same thinking, although ultimately the idea was not proceeded with. More notably however and much nearer at Dallas Ft/Worth (DFW), the Texan airport also had its design roots in the 1960s and employed a near-identical style of building to those at Kansas City, although somewhat larger.

Above - part of Terminal B (Famartin - wikimedia commons)

The terminals’ once revolutionary design is now dated, space is cramped, and amenities no longer meet travellers’ expectations. Added security requirements have also complicated the travel process by further reducing available space.

Although Cologne/Bonn’s terminal has a ‘drive-to-gate’ ideal behind it, the ‘U’ shape design – as opposed to the semi-circular layout at KCI and DFW and at the ill-fated Hamburg project - also has a much larger degree of floor space. It has thus not suffered from the same limitations as that found at Kansas City but perhaps significantly, there was serious thought given to a complete rebuild at DFW. Cost considerations prevented those thoughts going beyond the design stage however. In Germany when terminal expansion was needed at CGN instead of following the original plans, a new (and larger) separate terminal was built adjacent to the existing one, Terminal 2, and the 1970 original remains in use today as Terminal 1