VIDEO: Eisenhower National Airport
Floors: Eisenhower’s dark gray flooring with inlaid aluminum lines emulates jet contrails and leads guests to focal points in the building. Terrazzo flooring, a material made from chips of marble or granite set in concrete and polished, covers more than 100,000 square feet of the building. White terrazzo steps contrast the rest of the floors in the main entrance. To make the floor, Rick McCafferty, executive vice president of Key Construction, said workers laid about 5 inches of concrete, covered it with a synthetic material to create a moisture membrane and set about three-eighths of an inch of terrazzo on top.
Art fixture: A 330-foot art installation stretches over the first level and mezzanine in the new terminal. Artist Ed Carpenter, from Portland, Ore., made the fixture, which he titled “Aloft.” The piece took about nine days to install and almost a year to make. It’s made of steel cable and aluminum rods with polycarbonate pieces and dichroic glass – a type of glass that displays different colors in different lighting conditions. Its appearance changes as someone walks through the room.
ATMs: Like the old terminal, the new one will have two ATMs – one before security and one after. Jim Piernice, a courtesy crew member at the airport for almost three years, said the two most asked questions are “Where is the bathroom?” and “Where is the ATM?” But with 571 signs in the new terminal, he said those questions might be minimized.
Restrooms: No more restroom acrobatic acts to squeeze luggage into those pesky airport stalls. Restroom doors open outward in the new terminal. The building has 111 stalls and five family restrooms.
Drinking: Visitors can sip on an Aviation Pale Ale while waiting for a flight here in the Air Capital of the World. The airport will exclusively serve River City Brewing Co. beers on tap. Chris Arnold, owner of River City Brewing in Old Town, said they will have eight beers on tap, including Aviation Pale Ale, an airport exclusive. The beers will range from $4.40 to $5.50, and the brewery will offer a condensed version of its Old Town menu for a 10 percent markup. Fliers can still choose bottled or canned beers not from River City.
Eating: Most of the concession space can be found after you clear security in the new terminal, so you can buy your food and take it on the plane or get something to eat before your flight. Travelers can choose from River City Brewing Co., Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts and Grab & Fly, all after security, or Aviators Cafe before security.
Outlets: For all your on-the-go charging needs, the new terminal has an electrical outlet and USB plug for every 1.36 seats. That rate doesn’t include wall outlets and charging stations, which together add up to 786 electrical and USB plug-ins.
Wi-Fi access: Free Internet access is available.
Body scanner: The most noticeable security change for passengers is a new body scanner at the TSA checkpoint. Travelers will stand in the semi-round structure with their arms above their head for two or three seconds as two vertical scanners spin around the machine.
Body scanners, technically called advanced imaging technology, are common in larger airports but will be the first of their kind in Kansas. Jay Brainard, federal security director for Kansas TSA, said artificial body parts and implants that normally sound an alarm in walk-through metal detectors will not in the new scanner.
“The number of people who get pat-downs will decrease dramatically,” Brainard said.
And Brainard said pat-downs would be more contained with the new system. The scanner targets the specific point of interest, so TSA officers won’t need to conduct a full pat-down.
“It provides another layer of transparency with the passenger because they can actually turn around and see what alarmed it,” Brainard said in reference to the screen attached to the scanner.
Wichita’s body scanner is a repurposed machine from another airport, which is a common practice with TSA technology. When body scanners first emerged, they sparked some controversy among fliers because they captured detailed outlines of each person’s body, which many objected to as too invasive.
The new system shows the same diagram for every traveler – male and female.
“It shows what I refer to as a Gumby diagram,” Brainard said.
TSA wants general passengers to use the body scanner, but travelers can opt to use walk-through metal detectors or alternative screening measures if they want. On the other hand, PreCheck passengers will use the walk-through metal detectors but can also opt for alternative screenings or the body scanner.
Right now, Brainard said, only some of the Wichita TSA officers are trained to use the body scanner. He said TSA staff from Maine and Texas will be at the terminal on June 3, and for a few days after, to help train the rest of the employees.
Baggage machine: One of the biggest behind-the-scenes upgrades is a new screening system for checked bags. In the old terminal, checked bags manually went to three different screening stations where TSA officers ran the bags in and out of the X-ray machines. At the new airport, all bags will run on one system built into the terminal.
The airline employee will put each bag on a conveyer belt at the ticket counter, and the belt will run through automated bag screening technology. The machine will sort out bags that need to be searched and send the rest off for departure.
“It takes the human factor out of having to load the machines,” Brainard said. “You’re taking the middle man out.”
It doesn’t stop there.
“It’s not just that the machine is more efficient because it’s faster,” he said. “The software is better.”
Brainard said the time between when a passenger drops off a bag to when it’s ready for boarding will be about four minutes. He couldn’t give an estimate on current bag screening times.
Because of the centralized system and improved technology, Brainard said staffing for bag screening could decrease from about six to nine officers at a time to about five officers. Nonetheless, he said he doesn’t anticipate layoffs and instead plans to reduce staffing through employees retiring or quitting.
Glass boarding bridges: Jetways in the new terminal put Wichita on the map for the largest installation of glass-walled boarding bridges in the country.
Pat McCollom, program manager of the new terminal, said the bridges are made of laminated tempered glass, about one inch thick, and are structurally the same as traditional metal boarding bridges. The Jetways are flame resistant, are equipped with heating and air conditioning and can accommodate all commercial planes that regularly fly to Wichita.
As far as hail concerns, Ann Thorvik, consultant at Chrysalis Aviation Solutions, said, “Could it break? Sure. Is it likely? No.”
Square footage: Square footage-wise, the new building isn’t much bigger. The terminal is 275,000 square feet, compared with 265,000 square feet in the old building. But the new building’s high ceilings and open-concept floor plan make it feel much larger.
Ticket counters: All five airline ticket counters sit next to one another in the new terminal. Piernice, the airport courtesy crew member, said passengers often had trouble finding Delta Air Lines’ counter in its dimly lit location at the end of the old terminal. Now, all 29 ticket counter spots will be centrally located. Plus, the new design cuts distance between ticketing and gates by 40 to 60 percent to improve traffic flow.
Pay phone: Project planners even decided to include the nearly extinct commodity of a pay phone. The pay phone will be on the first floor near the main elevators.
Commercial lanes: Ground transportation now has two commercial lanes for taxis and hotel shuttles to improve traffic flow.
Aviation-inspired design: The building’s architecture was designed to emulate airline manufacturing. For example, air-conditioning and heating ducts in the great hall resemble enlarged air knobs above each seat on an airplane.
Mail service: Passengers can drop off letters in the new terminal. “That’s something the airport hasn’t had before,” Piernice said.
Gates: Nine of the 12 gates in the new terminal will open Wednesday. The three other gates won’t open until the security checkpoint area, west concourse and ramp in the old terminal are leveled to make room for the boarding bridges and jets at the new gates. Victor White, director of airports for the Wichita Airport Authority, said a bid for the demolition will go out this summer, but it could take up to a year before the three gates open.
Security cameras: They’re watching you. The airport is stocked with 225 security cameras.
TSA PreCheck: Travelers can still use TSA PreCheck in the new airport. Brainard, the federal security director for Kansas TSA, said the new terminal will have a designated PreCheck lane, like the current system. He said the new setup will allow officers to more easily open and close lanes because all four security lanes are next to each other, rather than split in two, like in the old terminal.
Gift shops: Passengers can buy airport novelties, magazines and other gift-shop supplies at three locations after security – Air Capital Market, CNBC Smartshop and CNBC News Express. Some merchandise will be available at Aviators Cafe before security.
Windows and lighting: Nine-layered tempered glass windows line much of the terminal’s exterior to utilize natural light. The windows are 13/8 of an inch thick, with small dots embedded in the panes of glass to diffuse sunlight in the building. The laminated technique used to make the windows also adds strength and insulation. In the security checkpoint room, skylights are built into the honeycomb-style ceiling to bring in natural light. The terminal also has 970 light fixtures.
Kids area: Kids will have a place to play while waiting to take off. But it won’t be open right away. The airport needs to put out another bid for the project. The space is across from gate one, a Delta Air Lines gate, and could potentially open in three to six months.
Lounge: An updated version of the old terminal’s Flight Deck Lounge will make its way into the new terminal. The area isn’t finished but will likely serve as a quiet space for passengers, with ancillary services like shoe shines or massages. No contracts have been signed for the Sky Warrior Retreat space, but McCollom, the project manager, said it could open in two or three months. The area is past security and will be open for all passengers.
Sources: Information came from Wichita Eisenhower National Airport documents, and interviews with Rick McCafferty, executive vice president for Key Construction; Victor White, director of airports for the Wichita Airport Authority; Ann Thorvik, consultant at Chrysalis Aviation Solutions, the company in charge of coordinating the terminal switch; and Pat McCollom, program manager of transportation and engineering for AECOM, who is in charge of the design and construction of the new terminal.