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History of Columbia Regional Airport - A Bright Future from a Historic Past
In 1928 the Columbia Municipal Airport was founded and located on US Highway 40 at the western edge of Columbia. The site today is part of Cosmo Recreation Center managed by Columbia Parks and Recreation and the roadway is known as Business Loop 70 West. The land was leased from the Allton Brothers, who had previously operated a flying service there. Part of the current Candlelight lodge on the north side of Business Loop 70 was then known as the Allton Hotel. For a brief time, the Allton Hotel was used by Stephens College as classrooms to teach aeronautics to Stephens College women. Improvements were made with Civil Aeronautics Administration assistance so that the airport would serve as an emergency landing field for the airway between Kansas City and St. Louis. In 1960, the Columbia Airport consisted of 470 acres purchased at a cost of $154,000 of which only $8,723.47 was contributed by the Federal Aviation Agency.
In 1962, the National Airport Plan recommended that Columbia have a 5,300 foot runway to accommodate the Conveyor CV340 at Columbia Municipal Airport and to determine whether it was practical to develop the existing site and provide for reasonable expansion capabilities. The estimated cost for the improvement would cost $3,000,000 for clearing, grading, runway extension, taxiway, apron, acquisition of south instrument approach zone and terminal building.
A prominent feature of the Columbia Airport study was the conclusion that a need existed for a Mid-Missouri Regional Air Terminal serving both Columbia and Jefferson City. News releases by the Federal Aviation Agency and trade publications indicated that consolidation of subsidized service to cities as close as Columbia and Jefferson City may be required in the future as a condition of the subsidy. The airport would be the regional airport for several Mid-Missouri cities including Jefferson City, Fulton, Mexico, and Boonville. Another advantage in building a regional airport is that the new airport could be under construction and completed without disturbing the air traffic at the existing Columbia Municipal Airport.
Twenty-three sites were examined upon which an airfield might be established, and the search was narrowed to five: Highway K, Fulton Road, Highway M, Highway DD and Highway H. On October 23, 1963, Horner and Shifrin Consulting Engineers of St. Louis submitted a report to the City of Columbia. They recommended the Highway H site. The estimated cost of the entire development was $3,410,000, of which it was expected that $1,515,000 would be a grant under the Federal Aid Airport Program administered by the Federal Aviation Agency.
The Columbia City Council called for a bond election, which was approved in January 1964. In May 1966, the Federal Aviation Agency approved a federal grant to pay part of the cost of buying the airport site. A grant of $131,586 was the first of several allocations from the federal government to help pay for the new $3.5 million facility. In November 1966, the city had obtained 183 acres for the airport site. On August 11, 1967, ground was broken, officially beginning construction on Columbia Regional Airport. The main 6500 foot runway had its dedication on November 2, 1968 and the new Columbia Regional Airport opened in December 1968. The airport bond was paid off in the spring of 1986.