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Kansas City airport terminal renamed for Tuskegee Airmen pilot

Charles B. Wheeler airport honors 101-year-old Brig. Gen. Charles McGee

The general aviation terminal at Kansas City, Missouri’s Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport was renamed June 29 for 101-year-old retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, who served as the airport’s manager during the early 1980s.

  • Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee salutes during a ceremony renaming the general aviation terminal at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Missouri, for the Tuskegee Airman. Photo courtesy of Private Air Media Group.
  • A US flag frames retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee during a Textron Aviation tour in Wichita, Kansas. Photo courtesy of Textron Aviation via Private Air Media Group.
  • A plaque honoring retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee is displayed outside the general aviation terminal at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo courtesy of Private Air Media Group
  • A North American P-51 Mustang frames retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, a Tuskegee Airmen pilot who flew similar bomber escort aircraft during World War II. Photo courtesy of Private Air Media Group.
  • Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee is congratulated during a ceremony renaming the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport general aviation terminal in his honor. Photo courtesy of Private Air Media Group.
  • Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee participates in a Textron Aviation tour in Wichita, Kansas. Photo courtesy of Textron Aviation via Private Air Media Group.
  • Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, 101, signs autographs during an appearance at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Missouri. The general aviation terminal was renamed in his honor. Photo courtesy of Private Air Media Group.
  • Dignitaries join retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee (standing center right) on the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport ramp. Photo courtesy of Private Air Media Group.

McGee said he was “honored beyond words” to attend the event—his first travel opportunity since the coronavirus pandemic. He traveled to the state from his current home in Bethesda, Maryland, on a business jet provided by Textron Aviation in coordination with Private Air Media Group.

The city along the Missouri River dividing Kansas and Missouri “holds a special place in my heart,” McGee said, because he and his wife, Frances, had made it their “home away from home” after he retired from a 30-year Air Force career. McGee served as manager of the airport from 1980 to 1982 and was also a member of the Kansas City Aviation Department’s Aviation Advisory Council. He was stationed at the former Richards-Gebaur Air Reserve Base in the 1950s before becoming the first Black commander of the base in 1972, television station KSHB reported.

McGee served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and amassed a total of more than 400 combat missions during a 30-year military career. He piloted a Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet on the eve of his 100th birthday in 2019 and smoothly landed it before receiving a hand-slapping welcome at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. McGee is one of only a handful of Tuskegee Airmen still alive.

A red-tailed U.S. Air Force Beechcraft T–6 Texan II turboprop trainer was parked on the ramp at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport next to a North American P–51 Mustang, reminiscent of the red-tailed aircraft Tuskegee Airmen flew during World War II while escorting heavy bombers into enemy territory.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kenyatta Ruffin, who was named in February by AOPA as the inaugural recipient of an inspiration award named for McGee, participated in the renaming ceremony. The commander of the 71st Operations Support Squadron previously praised McGee as a “true champion of freedom and flying.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-winning AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft and photography.
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