A recent ceremony in Wichita celebrated progress on the new Mid-Continent Airport terminal, which will finally give travelers a first impression that lives up to the name: Air Capital of the World. No other place on the planet has been so important to the history and development of business aviation.

Philip Hannon signs the steel beam
Philip Hannon, senior project manager for HNTB – lead architectural firm for the project – signs the steel beam.

The new terminal – about 25 percent complete and due to open in 2015 – aims to impress visitors with fresh aviation-inspired design. The roof evokes a wing and seems poised to take flight. Installations tell the story of Wichita’s incomparable aviation history in photos, illustrations and concise, colorful stories. A centerpiece light sculpture floats above ticketing counters, capturing the feeling of ascent and descent.

At the festivities, we placed the center beam, a symbol that the structure is here to stay. It follows a centuries-old Norse construction tradition, workers raise the center steel beam – bearing a flag, an evergreen tree and signatures of people who helped with the project – into position (pictured above). I was privileged to be among those who signed the steel girder before it rose to take its place aloft.

It’s destined to become a focal point for the pride Wichitans take in our aviation heritage. And a memorable reminder to visitors that they have, indeed, arrived at the Air Capital.