At KCI, cows make money and control deer


Look down as your plane leaves KCI and you’ll see cattle, lots of cattle.

The aviation department leases some of its 6,400 acres of available land for use by about 500 cattle, raising the city close to $500,000 a year.

That’s a small part of vast airport business operations at KCI and the downtown airport that bring in big money, which can only be spent on city airports.

That money is expected to be a big issue in the next two years as officials hash out how to pay for replacing KCI or spending millions for major improvements.

On Thursday, aviation officials reported financial activity to a business session of the city council.

David Long, deputy aviation director, explained how the city got into the cattle business.

It was the deer problem, he said. They jumped over the fences, pranced on tarmac and endangered aircraft.

“What we found out is that cattle and deer really don’t like each other,” he said. So they brought in the cattle and successfully controlled the deer.

Mayor Sly James quipped, “I thought we were going to diversify and bring in a McDonald’s franchise.”

Aviation Department Director Mark VanLoh also said the city has gained a world-wide reputation for maintaining aircraft.

He noted that Aviation Technical Services announced Thursday that it has a contract to work on Russian airplanes.

Councilwoman Jan Marcason said “civilian aircraft,” to make that clear. No Russian war birds here, yet.

ATS in December announced plans to lease the KCI Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul base, which is the former TWA maintenance facility. ATS intends to spend millions upgrading it and eventually hire up to 1,000 workers.

VanLoh said other operations on KCI grounds include auto auctions and storage parking for new vehicles made in the area.

Wind turbine blades are also stored there, although studies show there is not enough wind to use them KCI, VanLoh said.

The downtown airport is also a major business operation, he said.

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