falstaff From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 6205 posts, RR: 30 Posted (3 years 5 months 4 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 14321 times:
It has been a hot summer here in the Midwest and I have spent much of it in St. Louis, Missouri, with a train trip to Montreal and a few days back home, near DTW, to cut the grass and collect my mail. As some of you know I am a high school auto shop teacher and I spend a lot of my summers traveling. I decided to go visit an old high school/college friend who now lives “in” Inman, Kansas, who I had not seen in a few years. I was already in St. Louis, and really wasn’t looking forward to the 8 hour trip to Inman. I decided to drive to Kansas City International (MCI) and Fly on SeaPort Airlines (K5) to Salina (SLN) Kansas on one of their Pilatus PC-12 turboprops. This route is an EAS route (essential air service), which is subsidized by the Federal Government. I do not know what carrier served SLN in the days before deregulation, in 1978.
I began my drive from St. Louis around 8:30am. My flight didn’t leave MCI until 4:30pm and K5 only requires you to arrive 15 minutes ahead of departure., but I figured I would give myself plenty of time to stop and goof off, should the need arise. I did end up stopping at this fine attraction, in Grain Valley, Missouri, off of I-70. I am a huge fan of Smokey & The Bandit, as every good ole’ boy should be.
I arrived at MCI and found my way to 880 Mexico City Avenue, which is the home of Signature Flight Services, the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) that SeaPort uses at MCI. It looked like a nice place and had plenty of free parking, which was the first in a series of great things I found on my trip with SeaPort.
I used Signature’s lot at to park my car, because MCI was my origin city, but if you needed picked up from the main MCI terminal they had a Ford Econoline van to shuttle passengers back and forth, at no charge.
The terminal was clean and the SeaPort staff was very friendly. The man and woman at check in were two of the friendliest agents I have met in my travels to date. They weighed my bag and checked me in. I was not issued a boarding pass, but I guess since that the gate agent can see everybody sitting in the terminal and there is only the possibility of nine passengers, it is easy to keep track of everyone.
While waiting for my flight I helped myself to a free coffee and some free cookies. The Wi-Fi was also free, so I checked in on Facebook and looked around on a.net. I sat in the nice leather chairs, which were rather comfortable.
The flight was scheduled to leave at 4:30pm and the bags were loaded at 4:20pm and we boarded at 4:25. This was a nearly full flight to SLN, 8 passengers. The PC 12 only holds 9 so it was a bit tight at 8. We walked out to the ramp together and were greeted by the captain and the first officer (FO). We stepped aboard SeaPort Airlines Pilatus PC12-45, built in 2000, N934SP. I took the seat behind the captain and the FO did the safetly briefing and showed us where the fire extinguishers were, along with the first aid kit.
I found the leg room to be fairly good. Of course I was next to the door, so I think it was the best seat in the plane, as far as seat pitch goes.
The passengers were all very nice people and they were a mix of business and pleasure travelers. One couple was headed home from a vacation in Arizona and another woman was going to SLN for her 25th high school reunion. The rest were businessmen headed home. We all got to know each other fairly well in the terminal and continued talking on the plane. If we had beers it would have been a party. Since K5’s PC-12s don’t have toilets it was a good thing that there was no beer.
After a very short taxi and take off run we were off the ground and over the flooding Missouri River.
I had a very good seat to watch the FO, which not all SeaPort flights have.
We climbed to 20,000 feet, the PC-12 has a maximum ceiling of 30,000 feet, or so the captain said.
There was some bad weather on the radar so we climbed to 22,000 feet.
After an hour of flying it was time to land at SLN, which was once Smokey Hill Army Airfield/Air Force Base (1942-1949) and Schilling Air Force Base (1951-1965)
There weren’t any other planes on the ramp, or anywhere else to be seen, but ours.
We unloaded and walked down the long corridor to the terminal.
Not much was going on in the terminal
or outside of the terminal
but my old friend, Gerry, was there to meet me and we headed off to get some food and beer, in nearby Lindsborg, Kansas, at the Swedish Crown & Vasa.
We then headed back to Gerry’s home near Inman, Kansas. For those who are railroad buffs, it is located on the old Rock Island, now Union Pacific.
I did see a Kansas City Southern powered train on the line too.
Gerry and his family live a few miles out of town, down a few dirt roads. Gerry used to live in the St. Louis area, but his work has taken him to central Kansas. Which is good because Gerry and his wife aren’t big fans of urban or suburban living.
There isn’t much around Gerry’s house,
but there is plenty of neat old junk, like this Plymouth Valiant that is slowly being repossessed by the earth.
We had a few more beers and headed off to bed, we had a busy day on Saturday.
Saturday morning we had a great homemade breakfast of smoked sausage, home fries, eggs, and coffee. We loaded up the minivan with Gerry’s wife and kids and headed to Marquette, Kansas to see the Motorcycle Museum.
From left to right: Ryan, Camey, Bailey, Gerry, and Sean.
The Kansas Motorcycle Museum was fantastic and a must see for any cycle buff, coming through this part of the country.
After the museum we took the kids back home and Gerry and I headed to Yoder Meats to pick up some bacon for Sunday breakfast.
Yoder Meats was great; I could have spent a ton of money in there buying all the fine meats and other goodies.
We then headed to Hutchinson, Kansas,
where we would see our next local attraction.
The Kansas Underground Salt Museum.
Neither of us was expecting a crowd at the museum, but sure enough all kinds of people were out wanting to tour the mine. We were loaded onto an elevator and taken 650 feet underground. This mine has been in operation since the 1920s, but the part we were in was mined in the 1950s. Salt is still being mined here and much of the played out mine is being used to store original movies, videos, and props, from Hollywood movie makers. Also companies and governments from around the globe send documents to be stored here, where the temperature in 68 degrees and 40% humidity year round.
There was an impressive collection of mining equipment, films, and movie props.
We took a rail and truck tour around the mine. I have been in an Illinois coal mine and this salt mine was much different. The way they get the material out of the ground is about the same, but this mine is dry and free of toxic gas, so it was nothing like a coal mine in that regard. We even stopped and were allowed to collect some salt we could take home as a souvenir.
After getting back above ground we decided it was time for a beer so we drove over to some sad bars we saw. On the way to the sad bars we checked out what was once the world’s longest grain elevator, which at ½ mile long is still one of the world’s largest.
We also spotted a lot of neat old junk and trucks I wanted to take home.
The first bar we went to was very pitiful looking because it had no windows and no real way to tell it was open. The bar may have been the dumpiest place of business I ever drank beer at, but the beer was cheap and the bar was cold. Take note of the odd upside down race car for a sign.
It looked like drinking in the parking lot was acceptable.
We then headed to another bar, which looked super sad too, but it was clean on the inside and the people were nice. Notice the “power chair” parked in front.
After a few beers we headed back to Inman and to Gerry’s house to have a few more beers. Sunday Morning we got up and had a great breakfast of pancakes and bacon, which we got at Yoder Meats. We packed the family into the van and headed back to Hutchinson to go to church. We went to mass at the Grace Bible Church, which was very nice and the people were very friendly. I am a very traditional Episcopalian so the service was a lot different than what I am used to, but it is all the same Jesus. After mass we headed back to Gerry’s for lunch and to work on his 69 Buick Electra 225.
The radiator was a clogged up so we removed it from the car and flushed it out in the yard. We broke free a lot of debris. The car has an overheat problem at high speed, which is likely caused by poor coolant flow through a restricted radiator or an eroded timing chain cover, which the water pump bolts to. An eroded cover will cause pump cavatation and poor cooling at high rpm. We ruled out everything else.
That afternoon Gerry smoked a pork loin and we had that baby for dinner, along with potatoes and fresh asparagus. One of Gerry’s buddies came over and we had some beers and talked about cars and motorcycles, which is always a good topic. That night Gerry, Camey, and I watched one of favorite films, Strange Brew (1983), which we have seen dozens of time, but have never tired of.
The next morning Gerry and I headed back to SLN, which is close to an hour away. We arrived at the airport at 10am and the inbound flight from MCI was just arriving and deplaning its passenger. Gerry and I walked around and looked at the pictures and memorabilia they had on display from Schilling Air Force Base. There was also a luggage claim area that probably has not seen use for a while.
I was checked in by a very nice woman who just came and asked to see my Identification, which I showed her. I was going to walk to the desk, but she said it wasn’t necessary. Once again I was not issued a boarding pass and the friendly agent took my bag and tagged them for MCI. I was the only fare paying passenger on today’s flight. There was one other passenger, a woman going to MEM, but she worked for SeaPort. The flight to MCI also did not have a first officer, which is not required.
The captain gave me the safety briefing and we taxied to the runway, once again there was no other traffic.
We passed over Topeka.
By that time we were cruising at 18,000 feet
We crossed back into Missouri
and made our approach to MCI. I never flew on a regularly scheduled carrier and had this kind of view before.
We landed at MCI and the taxi to Signature Flight was very quick because it is much closer to the runway than the regular terminal. Once at the terminal I deplaned and was greated by a very friendly ramp agent who asked if I had a nice trip and if I needed a ride to the main terminal. The gentleman who was working the ramp and check in counter on Friday remembered me and asked if I had a nice time visiting my friend, he was now unloading my bags. My bags were carried inside the terminal, even though I said I could carry them myself. I was also offered some more free cookies and coffee. I am not sure where the plane was off to next, but there were several passengers in the waiting area.
I thanked everyone for such a great flying experience and I would recommending them to my friends. I then headed out to the parking lot to retrieve my car and drive to Warrensburg, Missouri to visit with some old college buddies of mine.
I really liked SeaPort airlines and I would fly them again. I read about them in Airways and they seem like a good company. I chatted with the captain and he said he started working for them when they started up a few years ago. He used to live in the Portland area and is now based (and lives) in Memphis. He told me that the pay isn’t bad and he likes flying the PC-12. He said the kind of flying he does with SeaPort is his favorite kind and he really enjoys the regular schedule and people he works with. Everyone I met at SeaPort was really friendly and nothing like a “regular” airline. I guess they can be that way when they never fly more than nine people anywhere. I think some of the big airlines can learn some things about good customer service from K5. I can’t say enough good things about my trip with them.
Burj From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 902 posts, RR: 3
Reply 3, posted (3 years 5 months 4 weeks 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 14092 times:
WOW! Very cool and thanks for sharing! I thought the airports in Upstate, NY were small!
Love the local photos too, especially the salt mine!
So it looks like the seats had three point belts, right?
I noticed you didn't mention security to TSA or anything....is that not required for these really small flights? In a lot of ways this is a far more civilized experience than most domestic U.S. flying!
Palmjet From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1224 posts, RR: 15
Reply 7, posted (3 years 5 months 4 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 13711 times:
Great report and pics - thanks so much for posting this. I really enjoyed reading about a very niche operation and what a great experience on the way back to MCI! I also really enjoyed the destination pics - glad you had a nice time. Thanks again! Cheers P/jet
I didn't know about it either until last year when I flew DTW-APN ( DTW-APN DL (XJ) 10-30/10-31 Saab 340 (by falstaff Nov 1 2010 in Trip Reports) ), which is a EAS route and that got me looking into other EAS routes. I looked into where the EAS routes were and found that the K5 route out of MCI would be a good one to try the next time I went to visit my buddy, Gerry.
ba724 From Australia, joined Nov 2010, 44 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (3 years 5 months 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 13370 times:
Wow Thanks! A great TR on a unique airline..and aircraft.Some interesting tourist attraction(and watering holes),reckon the salt mine would have been a good experience.Was good to have been able to include a few in flight shots of sections of the flightdeck.Glad you had a really good flight and meet up with your buddies...David
sw733 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 6375 posts, RR: 9
Reply 12, posted (3 years 5 months 4 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 13291 times:
Awesome report. Love seeing the rare reports that pop up here to/from/through my current home airport, MCI. Curious, though - with an interest in aviation, why not visit the Kansas Cosmopshere in Hutchinson? The salt mine is neat and all, but I'll take the Cosmosphere any day!
Quoting falstaff (Thread starter): Salt is still being mined here and much of the played out mine is being used to store original movies, videos, and props, from Hollywood movie makers. Also companies and governments from around the globe send documents to be stored here, where the temperature in 68 degrees and 40% humidity year round.
I see rolls of film stored there too. I wonder if all the low-budget B-movies we love so much have their original reels stored down there.
Quoting falstaff (Thread starter): We even stopped and were allowed to collect some salt we could take home as a souvenir.
Would you like fries with that?
Quoting falstaff (Thread starter): We then headed to another bar, which looked super sad too, but it was clean on the inside and the people were nice. Notice the “power chair” parked in front.
Why couldn't he roll himself in there?
If he were carried in there, his friends would be too drunk to carry him out?
Quoting falstaff (Thread starter): Sunday Morning we got up and had a great breakfast of pancakes and bacon, which we got at Yoder Meats.
I almost bought a 1969 Buick Electra 225 convertible years ago.
Quoting falstaff (Thread starter): The radiator was a clogged up so we removed it from the car and flushed it out in the yard. We broke free a lot of debris. The car has an overheat problem at high speed, which is likely caused by poor coolant flow through a restricted radiator or an eroded timing chain cover, which the water pump bolts to. An eroded cover will cause pump cavatation and poor cooling at high rpm. We ruled out everything else.
Sounds like the same design my '77 Lincoln Town Car has with the 460cu" engine.
mhkansan From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 731 posts, RR: 1
Reply 18, posted (3 years 5 months 3 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 12797 times:
Hey Falstaff - Great TR. Living in Kansas this means a lot to me. I have family near Hutchinson and I love visiting that part of the state. Next time you go to Hutch, be sure to see the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, which is a Grade A+ space museum that you would not expect to find in a small town.
Generally I always drive to my family's place which is a good drive southeast of Hutch, but coming from Manhattan it is always best to go through Salina and McPherson unless you're like me and like to take many senic detours. I've stopped at the terminal at SLN on one such detour before and found it very nice for an airport of its size. SLN has had quite a few problems filling SeaPort's 9-seat planes, but they sure do a better job there than ZK - a fine airline but the equipment was too big. The service is laughed at by many Salina residents who want bigger aircraft (but don't use it when they have it.)
I've always wanted to try and take a jaunt to MCI and fly over to SLN but I don't have $180 lying around as a poor college student
Quoting falstaff (Thread starter): I do not know what carrier served SLN in the days before deregulation, in 1978.
I don't know for sure about this, but Capitol Airways was a small airline HQ'd at MHK that served the area with flights to Salina and Wichita, along with Topeka and Kansas City. They had a fleet of two DHC-6 Twotters and an assortment of Cessna 172 and Caravan eqipment. Locally referred to as "Crash Air" because they tended to run into things on the ground. My mom flew them to Kansas City from MHK in the late '70s and said that she was the only passenger on the 172 service. There was one pilot, and at 6:00 AM he hadn't quite woken up yet. She didn't fly them again.
Our "official" service was the first Frontier. They flew twice daily MCI-FOE-MHK-SLN-DEN service but would avoid stops if no pax were boarding. One was a 737-200 and the other a CV-440. I believe the 737 service did not stop at SLN because my Dad recalls flying the route direct. He said the bird was empty. I am a child of the '90s so I only remember Air Midwest service. Air Midwest picked up the SLN route after deregulation on their own, and then for US Airways Express all the way until the YV closure when ZK took over SLN and MHK. MHK was discontinued by ZK in April 2009 after MQ started DFW service there in August of 2008. MQ has been a huge hit in MHK and many from SLN and FOE take advantage of our free parking and small airport. MHK will have five daily MQ departures in November on the ER4 and one ERD.
ZK discontinued SLN last year after they lost the bid to SeaPort. They won the bid with their cheaper service, and promised to offset the loss of the two TSA jobs at SLN by basing two pilots there. SLN is officially a pilot base for SeaPort!
Quoting Superfly (Reply 16): I see rolls of film stored there too. I wonder if all the low-budget B-movies we love so much have their original reels stored down there.
The Salt Mines store very high-budget films and memorabilia. MGM does back up all their reels there, and other Hollywood giants are split between the salt mines and a similar disused mine in north Kansas City. You can spot it on the drive to MCI.
In addition to storage, there is a well-used conference center down in the mines and a fantastic concert series. The acoustics in that place are out of this world.
Be very happy to answer any more questions anyone has about Kansas. I've lived here my entire life, and now I'm going to school here, too. Its a great place.
Coal From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 2158 posts, RR: 6
Reply 19, posted (3 years 5 months 3 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 12760 times:
Thanks for the report! It's very nice to fly on some of these small airlines out of FBOs because of the lack of TSA / security, thus making it more humane. It reminded me a lot of my flight from Darwin to our mine in Groote Eylandt in Australia with Vincent Aviation. The added bonus is we got a free sandwich and bottle of water.
Any pics of the sad bars inside? Quite an unusual interest of yours, but I've to some sad bars myself, and you find some of the most colorful people. One I remember was Leon's Pub, in Tallahassee, FL. A sad bar, but then again it had an amazing craft beer selection from the US and Europe!
WA707atMSP From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 2276 posts, RR: 8
Reply 21, posted (3 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 12504 times:
Thank you for a fantastic trip report, Falstaff!
I dug out my copy of "Air Midwest - the first Twenty Years", by I. E. Quastler, which has some more information about air service into Salina.
Salina - Wichita was Air Midwest's very first scheduled route. They began service on the route in 1967, after Frontier I predecessor Central Airlines suspended it. Flights were operated twice a day, with a Cessna 206. Traffic was so light that Air Midwest started making "flag stops" at McPherson and Hutchinson, and extended the route north from Salina to MHK, in hopes of attracting more passengers. The route continued to be uneconomic, and it was suspended in mid-1968.
Air Midwest resumed service to Salina in 1972, as a stop on their Hays - Kansas City route, and also resumed 1x day Salina-Wichita flights. All flights at this time used Beech 99s. Air Midwest pulled out of Salina for the 2nd time in 1976, because they were unable to compete against then-incumbent Frontier I, which continued to serve SLN-Kansas City.
Air Midwest started flights to Salina (for the third time) in June, 1982, when Frontier I began to transition their EAS contracts at SLN and MHK to Air Midwest. Frontier I pulled out of SLN for good in Jan 1983.
Anyone who is interested in the history of airline service in Kansas should definitely get a copy of this book. It is long out of print, but two copies are available at Alibris.
mhkansan From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 731 posts, RR: 1
Reply 23, posted (3 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 12324 times:
Quoting sw733 (Reply 22): Topeka: Hometown of the band Kansas...and nothing else that anyone would ever, ever want to brag about.
Now wait a minute. Topeka is a wonderful city that has a lot to brag about. The downtown area is beautiful, the region is growing economically, and it has one of - if not the most beautiful state government campuses around with the Kansas State capital building.
Everyone in Kansas scorns the Westboro Baptist Church. In Manhattan, I went to school with one Fred Phelps' grand-nieces (who had renounced the church). She called him a douchebag. Don't let the WBC form your view of a state that has an awful lot to brag about but doesn't. I find that the most annoying thing about my fellow Kansans - we don't toot our own horn enough.