Eagle editorial: rename new airport?

Wichita’s new $101.5 million airport terminal will be state of the art when it opens in early 2015. How about also making its name stand out?

Jan Harrison and Phil Thompson of 104.5 “The Fox” started a petition drive earlier this month to name the new terminal “Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower International Airport.” The petition – found at ipetitions.com/petition/ilikeike/ and at Riverside Cafe locations – has about 850 supporters so far.

Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is an OK name, but Harrison argues that it “is not memorable and a bit lackluster.” It’s also a hand-me-down name.

Kansas City’s old airport used to be called Mid-Continent International Airport, which was a reference to the old Mid-Continent Airlines. When Kansas City renamed its new airport, Wichita took the old name in 1973.

“Our new airport is being designed, in part, to create a good first impression of our city,” Harrison said. “A new name will complement that first impression.”

And when it comes to impression, it is difficult to surpass Eisenhower, who was raised in Abilene and went on to lead the allied forces in World War II and serve as our nation’s 34th president. Unlike some presidents, Eisenhower’s stature continues to grow – and will elevate even more when a planned national memorial is completed in Washington, D.C.

Former Kansas U.S. Sen. Bob Dole has also endorsed the name change. He wrote to the radio station that he thinks “it is a great idea.”

The idea for naming the new airport after Eisenhower has been around a while. Former Eagle columnist Mark McCormick, who is now the executive director of the Kansas African American Museum, wrote about it in 2004. He got the idea from Wichitan Luke Yakel.

Renaming airports is not uncommon and not difficult to do. City policy requires Wichita City Council members to appoint residents to a naming committee, which then makes a recommendation.

The committee could consider other possible names or variations. For example, it might be presumptuous to include “international” in the title.

Also, city policy says that in order to name a public facility after an individual, that person needs to have made a significant contribution that is specific to Wichita. Would Eisenhower meet that requirement? If not, is an exception possible?

Changing an airport’s three-letter airport identifier rarely happens, because that’s what appears on navigational maps. That’s why the Kansas City International Airport’s identifier is still MCI.

So ICT wouldn’t change to IKE. Too bad.

Harrison and Thompson hope to present their petition to the City Council on Oct. 15, the day after Eisenhower’s birthday. Harrison notes that Eisenhower never forgot where he came from and credited Kansas for making him who he became.

“He remembered Kansas,” she said. “Let us remember him.”

How about it?

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee