the landing

With the opening of a new restaurant later this month, renovations will have come full circle at the Jefferson City Memorial Airport since it was badly flooded in 2019.

Also coming full circle will be the restaurant’s operator, Bob Drainer, who started working at the former Airport Café when he was 16 years old. The new restaurant, called The Landing Zone, occupies a large part of the new administration building that was constructed to replace the old terminal, badly damaged in the flood and torn down.

The Landing Zone can seat 91 inside, and another 25 on its outdoor deck overlooking the runway. It will be open 6 a.m.-2 p.m. every day except Wednesdays, when it will be closed.

The Airport Café endured at least four floods before closing its doors. Nicks Family Restaurant then operated at the airport for 20 years until the flood of 2019 drove it to its current location on East McCarty. Flooding shouldn’t be a problem for the new restaurant, which is elevated to 11 feet off the ground.

Jefferson City Memorial Airport is the sixth busiest in Missouri, said airport manager Eric Bowers. He said only the two airports in St. Louis, the two airports in Kansas City, and the airport in Springfield are busier. Bowers updated a group of chamber of commerce members recently, along with Grant Shorthose, who is CEO of Jefferson City Flying Service, based at the airport.

The airport doesn’t offer commercial airline service, but provides a wide variety of aviation services to business charter, cargo and military aircraft. It can accommodate the largest of business-class jets, has more than 60 based aircraft, and is home to several corporate and state flight departments.

Jefferson City Flying Service is a private “fixed base operator” that sells fuel, provides maintenance services, sells avionics equipment and conducts a flight instruction school. Shorthose, who has been an owner of the company since 2000, told chamber members that he sells about 42,000 gallons of fuel per month and has about 50 students in the flight school at any given time.

The City of Jefferson owns the airport and manages it through its Department of Public Works. The heavy flooding in spring of 2019 left the terminal, which was built in 1966, unsalvageable and it was ultimately demolished.

To rebuild, the city entered into an agreement to lease the ground to RKH Airport Properties, who would build the new administration building and a 100x100 foot hanger. The administration building would contain the restaurant, space for the flight school and office space for the airport manager. The city would then lease back from RKH the airport manager space. RKH would design, construct, operate and maintain the building, hanger and restaurant. The lease is for 30 years and the city will pay about $6,500 per year for the airport manager’s office.

Only the hanger was constructed on the flood plain. The offices and restaurant were elevated 11 feet to avoid future flooding issues.

The airport was built in 1947-48 on 238 acres of farmland located in the Missouri River bottoms directly across from the state capitol building, according to the city website. It is operated and maintained by the city’s public works department.

The original construction consisted of one paved runway that was 2,500 feet long, and two grass strips, each of which were also 2,500 feet long. Improvements were made to runways in 1956, 1963 and 1985, resulting in today’s configuration. Currently, the main runway is a concrete surface 6,000 feet long by 100 feet wide. It is equipped with high-intensity runway lighting and several instrument approach procedures.  The crosswind runway (9-27) is 3,400 feet long by 75 feet wide.  It has a concrete surface and medium-intensity runway lighting.  Both runways have parallel taxiways.  Additional facilities include the Airport Terminal Building, which was constructed in 1966, and the Air Traffic Control Tower which was commissioned in 1973.