Missourian readers, I know, take a back seat to no one when it comes to concern for the welfare of our metropolis. That concern certainly extends the 10 miles or so south to the airport.
Columbia Regional Airport — or, as I like to call it, Englewood International — has been in the news since the Columbia Daily Tribune reported last week that the New York consultants have come up with a design for a new terminal.
HJWIII opined in Sunday's Trib that we should take a leap of faith (that's a close paraphrase) and sign on to what the consultants guesstimate would be at least a $33.7 million project.
I learned long ago to be wary of disagreeing with my elders, but this time I'm going to have to do just that.
Let's have a show of hands by those who have flown out of or into Englewood International recently. Anyone? Anyone? Me neither.
Still, like many of you, I have fond memories of the good old days. Remember Ozark Airlines? How about TWA?
Probably my favorite memory is of the evening I returned from a trip and was met by my lovely and thoughtful wife, accompanied by the kids and some friends. She handed me the keys to a spanking new Chevy pickup. That truck outlasted the airline of the day by far.
In search of a fresh impression, on Wednesday morning I drove south on U.S. 63, crossed Turkey Creek, navigated the two new roundabouts on the overpass at Route H and pulled into the free parking lot that is one of the airport's most attractive features.
When I walked into the terminal at 10:30, I didn't see another human being. No waiting passengers, no American Airlines agents, no TSA inspectors, not even anybody behind the rental car counters.
And why should anyone be there? The early flight to Dallas was long gone, and the mid-afternoon run to Chicago was hours away.
I climbed the stairs to the Skyline Cafe (serving a full menu from 4:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday) and chatted with the first person I'd seen, a pleasant lady who said business is pretty good, though of course she had no customers at the moment. Together we watched the crew that's busy repairing and expanding the taxiway.
Back on the main floor, I passed the empty desk that until recently served Frontier's flights to Orlando, of all places. There's still a small sign advertising Frontier, but the airline itself has flown away.
I take you along on my visit to make a point. It seems to me that the modest terminal we now have, one that's paid for, is more than adequate to serve the single airline and its three flights a day, comfortably full though they be.
Should we have the good fortune to persuade or bribe another carrier to come in, or should American add a second Chicago flight, there'll still be more than enough room.
It was telling, I thought, that Mayor Bob McDavid, who has publicly proclaimed a goal of luring 40 percent of Columbia travelers to the airport by 2020, described the consultants' proposal to the Tribune as "interesting" and "creative."
The descriptor that came immediately to my mind was "fantasy." The mayor's top priority, he said, is to keep working on the relationship with American.
In Hank's editorial, he conceded that for most of us, flying from our airport remains too expensive or too inconvenient. Nonetheless, his faith-based conclusion was, "Let's build it. They already are coming."
I prefer a fact-based version of that famous line from "Field of Dreams." Let's see if they come before we build it. The field of dreams wasn't going to cost $33 million.
George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.