Editor's Note: This column is the second in a three-part series about the history of the Jefferson City airport.
Several airlines provided service to travelers from the Jefferson City Municipal Airport decades before there was a regional airport.
The present Jefferson City Municipal Airport was constructed in 1948 on 238 acres located just north of the Capitol in Callaway County. The original construction had one paved runway, at 2,250 feet long, and two grass strips, at 3,200 feet and 2,600 feet long. The paved runway, known as 12/30, was extended to 3,650 feet in 1954 and to 5,000 feet in 1964. By 1986, it was 6,000 feet long.
The terminal building was constructed in 1966 and dedicated as a memorial to Veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The 115-by-45-foot building cost $148,000.
When the Missouri National Guard built its Army Aviation Support Facility in 1983, it cost about $2.2 million. The city supplied fill to raise the site to the 100-year-flood protection level, as well as the entrance road, water line and sewer at a cost of about $500,000.
Although the city owned the airport, services including fuel sales, maintenance, charter flights, aircraft rental, hangar and flight instruction were provided by private businesses. Bill Asel began his long airport career in 1954 when he opened Industrial Aviation, which was the only provider of general aviation services until Jim Dawson and Darold Kirtlink started Jefferson City Flying Service in 1971. Jefferson City Flying Service was purchased by Bill Ward and Terry Rackers in 1974.
Johnny Muessig was a flight instructor for the Capital City Flying Club in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Muessig was a U.S. Navy veteran of WWII and was better known for his 5:30 a.m. country music and talk show on KWOS radio, often with Rex White on the show. Muessig sold advertising for KWOS and did flight instruction in the afternoon. He also played in country western bands, like Frankie and Johnny. The "Frankie" was Frank Dudley, whose family spent many years in the restaurant business in Jefferson City. The other band was the Johnny Boys. Three or more nights a week, his bands played at local night spots.
The Jefferson City tower started operations Nov. 1, 1973. The original controllers were Frank Casella and James Garner. John Drainer, a U.S. Navy veteran, was chief controller until his retirement in 1996.
As early as 1943, there was interest in a joint airport with Columbia. In 1960, there was a meeting with Columbia, Fulton and Jefferson City about a joint airport, but Jefferson City showed virtually no interest and said "no." Jefferson City opposed the regional airport idea for years and finally gave up the fight in 1966.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held Aug. 16, 1967, at the Elkhurst site (now the site of Columbia Regional Airport), and the opening ceremony in October 1968. No Jefferson City representatives attended the former, and Mayor John Christy declined an invitation to the latter. In the Daily Capitol News, Christy said, "The reason I'm declining the invitation is too well known to go into lengthy explanation, and certainly, it should not be an affront to you, Mayor Nichols, or the citizens of Columbia."
Several airlines have provided service to Jefferson City since 1948. Only three have operated for more than a month. Ray Brummit was the owner/operator of BACA airlines, operating 1949-54. He had three pilots — Bud Jones, a legend because of his WWII service as a fighter pilot in Europe, Ron Maxwell and Dick Baird.
Later, Jones was a pilot for the Missouri Highway Patrol and Maxwell for the Weldon family and News Tribune flying a Beech Bonanza and a Piper Aztec. Maxwell was also very active in airport affairs and served on the airport advisory group, and Baird was later station manager for Ozark Airlines.
BACA Airlines had affiliated companies, which were called divisions of the airline. The Central Missouri Division operated Jefferson City, Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City. They had a Southern Missouri division operating St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Sikeston and Memphis. They had schedules including Carbondale, Marion and Evansville in Illinois as well as Oklahoma City, Lawton, Duncan and Ft. Sill in Oklahoma. They also advertised service in California from Los Angeles to Ontario, San Bernardino and Big Bear Lake.
Ozark Airlines, which operated DC-3s and the Martin 404, began in 1954. Ozark's schedule included Jefferson City, Columbia, St. Louis, Springfield and Kansas City, until 1968, when the regional airport opened.
Bill Asel operated Trans Mo Airlines in 1966-86 with Cessna 206s, 337s, a 310 and Cessna 402s. The original pilots were Don Schaefferkoetter, Dave Pavitt and Terry Rackers. The mechanic, Joe Antweiler, was important to keep the airline running safely. Trans Mo had routes to St. Louis; Cape Girardeau; Lake of the Ozarks; Sedalia; Kansas City; and Topeka, Kansas.
Airline service for Jefferson City essentially ended in 1986, when Trans Mo shut down.
Terry Rackers worked at the Jefferson City Airport from 1960-2000. He was co-owner and president of Jefferson City Flying Service from 1974-2000. From 1977-2017, he was co-owner and president of Central Missouri Aviation in Columbia, Missouri. He flew extensively in the United States and Europe.