A report from Manhattan Regional Airport director Jesse Romo on Tuesday reminded us of something: our airport is a pretty big success story.
Mr. Romo at the city commission meeting this week said about 77,000 people flew out of the airport commercially in 2019, a 14-percent increase from 2018.
But keep in mind that it wasn’t that long ago — within our lifetime for many of us — that the local airport consisted of a little bitty 1930s-era terminal and a subsidized route to Kansas City. That’s it.
The city government at some point took a gamble, making a deal that got us new routes and guaranteed the airlines a certain volume of passengers. If the number fell below that, the city would be responsible for the difference, but as far as we can remember, it’s never had to do that.
Now usage is up substantially, and we have multiple jets per day going to both Chicago and Dallas.
The city took another gamble when it expanded the terminal, of course, which has proven to be a good decision. And now it’s expanding the parking. Charging for parking, as they’re going to do to pay for the new lot, is another sort of gamble. But those are the kinds of things you have to do to make the airport grow. And we’ve seen that people use the airport when you make the service good.
People will continue to want more, of course. A Denver flight would be great. But we should be proud of what our local airport has become.
As we’ve mentioned before in this space, city officials are working to get a new runway at Manhattan Regional Airport, and they’re hoping that with support from the right people, the Federal Aviation Administration will pony up for a 150-foot-wide one.
That’s the width of the current runway, which is big enough to allow larger planes to land here, which comes in handy sometimes.
As Sen. Jerry Moran said, “This is not a typical airport. MHK has unique features that not only involve frequent travelers in the region, but the movement of troops and equipment from Fort Riley and necessary access for K-State and their athletics program.”
At the moment, based on the number of passengers here, the federal government will only cover the cost (well, 90 percent of the cost) of a 100-foot-wide runway. If the city proceeds with the wider runway, it would be responsible for up to $9 million to build it.
We hope officials will find a way around this, because we want the airport to have the infrastructure to continue to thrive and grow if the need exists.