National Aviation Day, which falls on Saturday, Aug. 19, holds a special place on Wichita calendars. We are, after all, the “Air Capital of the World.”
Defining a city: “ICT”
You’ll see it everywhere you go in Wichita and all over our social media. “ICT” is Wichita’s airport code, a simple three-letter designation by the International Air Transport Association, but “ICT” means so much more to a city defined by flight.
How did Wichita earn the name “Air Capital of the World?”
Not only is Wichita home to an award-winning airport – the new Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport – but it’s also the city where the aircraft industry was made. Iconic aviation brands Beechcraft, Cessna and Stearman were born in Wichita; and modern-day Airbus Americas, Bombardier, Spirit Aerosystems and Textron Aviation now design and manufacture aircraft and aircraft parts in this city. Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research and Wichita Area Technical College’s National Center for Aviation Training turn students into designers, engineers, machinists and more, with specialized training from Wichita’s expert sources of aviation and aerospace technology.
Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport the namesake of “ICT,” opened its newest award-winning terminal in June 2015, and anyone flying into the city will reap the benefits of this modern upgrade to air transportation in Wichita. With six airlines – Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, Southwest and United – 12 gates and expanded ticketing and baggage claim areas, flying into Wichita has never been easier, more accessible or quite as beautiful.
Stearman Field Bar & Grill, just a short drive northeast of Wichita in Benton, Kansas, serves delicious, homemade southern-style food at a private airport where you can watch general aviation aircraft land and take off just 40 feet away. The most unique experience at Stearman, though, has nothing to do with their food. Schedule time to take flight in a 1940 Stearman open cockpit bi-plane!
Learn more about Stearman Sky Tours.
Go back in time
Housed in the original Wichita Municipal Airport Terminal Building, the Kansas Aviation Museum chronicles the development of general aviation in Kansas, displaying an ever-growing collection of aircraft and aviation-related artifacts. Built-in-Wichita aircraft on display include a 1927 Laird Swallow, a 1945 Beech Bonanza B-35 and an under-restoration Cessna T-37B.
In addition to its historic aircraft displays, the Kansas Aviation Museum also has the Boeing: Science, Math and History Learning Center, which provides educational opportunities fit for the whole family and perfect for field trips. Flight simulators, a mock control tower and cockpits for learning and play offer visitors a chance to interact with current aviation technology, too.
Each month, the Kansas Aviation Museum hosts a “Frequent Flyers” event for kids K-5. The next “Frequent Flyers” is 10-11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, with activities and craft for National Aviation Day.
Exploration Place, Wichita’s interactive science museum, will open a truly unique aviation exhibit Dec. 2, 2017. Spirit AeroSystems’ Design Build Fly exhibit will not open until after National Aviation Day, but it will be worth the wait and another trip to Wichita to experience 5,100 square-feet of gallery, hands-on activities and theater in a 737 fuselage.
Learn more about Exploration Place’s Design Build Fly exhibit here.
With a timeline steeped in general, commercial and wartime aircraft development and a population proud of its aviation heritage, Wichita is without a doubt the best place in America to celebrate National Aviation Day.
Learn more about Wichita’s rich aviation history as part of a recent blog post commemorating the city’s birthday, here.