The Senatorial half of the Bond/Blunt duo that makes things happen legislatively in Southwest Missouri showed up at the Joplin Airport yesterday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the airport's new Air Traffic Control facility. Christopher "Kit" Bond joined Mayor Gary Shaw and other city of Joplin officials and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce in dedicating the tower for which he had been instrumental in securing $3.5 million as a response to the FAA's mandate in 2005 that the aging tower be replaced.
With good men in authority the people rejoice--Joplin Mayor Gary Shaw
In a short speech Bond complimented city officials and the community for their "spirit" and "work ethic" in bringing the project to completion. Bond, pictured right, a ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee that funds US transportation projects, also credited his partnership with Congressman Roy Blunt for securing millions in federal funding for both the new tower as well as the new terminal at the airport.
Bond stressed that the new 90-foot tall tower that sits on a 2,100 sq. ft. base will put state-of-the-art equipment in the hands of local air traffic controllers, making Joplin Airport a safer place for both commercial and general aviation.
He also saw improvements as a "symbol of future economic growth," and commented further that "good transportation and good jobs go 'hand in glove.'"
View from the top
Steve Stockam, director of the Joplin Airport (at left) confers with John Speckin, executive manager of the Federal Aviation Administration-Central Region before a ceremony dedicating the new airport tower on August 29, 2008.
"You can see 24 water towers," Steve Stockam, airport manager, told Bond and those assembled with him in the "cab" of the tower. And Bond took him at his word noting the "awesome panoramic view" and how obviously it was important for insuring the safety of the aircraft that used the runways.
In discussing what he would do if he were at the airport during a tornado warning, Stockam said he probably would find the cab the safest place. In describing the tower's construction, he said that 16 steel-re-enforced piers, 30-inches in diameter, were sunk 20-inches in the bedrock, the concrete foundation was poured on site, and then the cab was assembled and put on the base.
"The glass is designed to withstand 120-mile per hour winds," Stockam said, but added that he might be "a little nervous during a lightning storm."
David Hertzberg, city of Joplin public works director, recounted how he and others traveled to New Jersey to the FAA facility that was responsible for the siting of the new tower. The William J. Hughes Technical Center located about 10 miles northwest of Atlantic City is considered the nation's premier aviation research and development and test and evaluation facility.
"The [facility] was a World War II-looking Quonset hut that had truly amazing technology," Hertzberg said. He and Stockam seemed to demonstrate "little boy excitement" in describing how the FAA came to Joplin, shot digital photos of the airport, and from them created a model that through a virtual reality sequence was used to site the tower. This procedure corrected for proper elevation, sight distance, and anything else that might impede an air traffic controller's ability to provide safe instructions for aircraft.
Describing their experience in what Hertzberg called a "simulator," Stockam said that at one point he wanted to say, "Whoa, slow down."
When asked, but not sure of the exact date of the old tower's construction, Stockam finally agreed that it had to have been built in the early 70s. He said that Brad Belk, Joplin Museum Complex director, has supplied a photo of the then presidential candidate John F. Kennedy looking in the direction of where the tower eventually would be.
Terminal dedication is scheduled
The new Joplin Airport Terminal is seen from the area of the tower. It replaces the terminal built in 1948 that will be used for offices.
The community is invited to join Blunt, business leaders and city officials in a dedication ceremony of the terminal at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008. An open house that will feature tours and refreshments will take place from 1-6 p.m.
The airport terminal is located at 7331 N. Highway 43 and is accessed by traveling 1-1/2 miles north of the intersection of 171 and Hwy. 43.
The existing terminal was built in 1948, and includes a 1970ís project addition. Although the facility has served the community well in the past 50-plus years, it had several limitations. The new facility, whose general contractor was Crossland Construction of Kansas, will provide up-to-date amenities for passenger access for arrival and departure; covered loading and unloading at curbside. Parking will continue to be free of charge. Construction of the total terminal project cost $15 million with federal dollars providing approximately 90%.
In 2005, the state of Missouri completed a statewide evaluation of the public use airports. As part of this study it evaluated the economic benefits each airport had for its respective community. This study shows when all economic impact measures are combined and analyzed, Joplin Regional Airport contributes 256 full-time jobs with earnings of $7.4 million. Total economic impact is estimated at $20,980,000 annually to the Joplin area.
Great Lakes Airlines will utilize the new facility with its first flights to Kansas City set for Monday, Sept. 8. Great Lakes will begin with two flights daily through September and on October 1 move to three flights a day. It is anticipated that an additional flight will be added on December 1.
Lynn Onstot, Joplin public information officer contributed to this report. Photos by Vince Rosati and Mari Winn Taylor