ENID, Okla. — The new Enid Woodring Regional Airport terminal isn't quite complete, but close enough a scheduled ribbon-cutting ceremony — with local, state and national officials attending — was held Wednesday morning.

Dozens were invited to tour the nearly finished facility, no hard hats necessary. Among the crowd were Enid Mayor George Pankonin, city commissioners, representatives from Vance Air Force Base and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.

Inhofe, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, piloted himself in for the ceremony and applauded Enid for continuing to invest in aviation infrastructure.

"We have a level of community support here that other people don't have," Inhofe said.

The $2.7 million project will replace the old terminal constructed in 1978.

Rather than keep the old terminal, the plan is to auction off everything inside, and hand it over for demolition in September.

"It has too many issues with it," Airport Director Dan Ohnesorge said, a whole host of problems resulting from the age of the building. "We had a plumber out here twice last week. This past week we had some electrical issues and we lost power in a portion of the terminal, so I went to throw circuit breakers and they were popping back at me."

Ground was broken on the replacement terminal in late September 2018, and an earlier prediction placed the completion time in mid-June.

There are two wings, one for business and one for dining, separated by a lobby decorated with model planes hanging from the ceiling, frozen in flight.

Though it was open to tour, the dining side is the furthest from completion, due in part to delays with installation of flooring and gas lines, Ohnesorge said.

He estimates another three weeks is all it should take to finish the section, which comes equipped with a restaurant, kitchen, walk-in freezer, dining tables and seating, all set before a wall of windows, giving hungry travelers a view of the airport's south side.

The business side is ready, save for a "few fine touches," Ohnesorge said, such as bathroom stalls, which currently are missing.

Bathrooms, conference and meeting spaces, pilot's lounge, a sleeping room, and a joint use planning room make up the business wing.

Particularly special attention was paid to the planning room, named for retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dave Chael.

His family came to see the space. A photo of the pilot is fixed beside the doorframe, putting a face to the name on the plaque.

A brother, one of several, gently touched the frame before entering.

Inside, there are more framed pictures. One is a still taken from thousands of feet up, snapped in a break in the clouds, an aircraft of the sort Chael used to fly, the brothers said.

In November 2017, 61-year-old Chael was in the cockpit instructing another pilot, Cortney Washburn, 39, when their single-engine plane crashed in Alva. Neither of the men survived the accident.

One and a half years isn't a long time at all, Sue Chael said.

Her husband was well known at the airport, she said, and had a hangar there. Sometimes he would instruct, sometimes he would fly businessmen and others.

To many employees or regular visitors of the small airport, the name for the planning room will be familiar, she said.

He also served on the Aviation Advisory Board, Ohnesorge said, "we found it fitting to name something in his honor."

Ohnesorge said the airport gets 10 to 15 aircraft per day, for various reasons. Some are pleasure flyers, others are on business. People often charter flights with destinations all over the country.

Vance Air Force Base gets a lot of use out of the facility, referring to Woodring as the base's "fourth runway."

"We could not produce the number of pilots we need to produce without this facility," said Col. Jay Johnson, 71st Flying Training Wing vice commander. "You come out here any given day, there's a Vance tail on this ramp. This new facility, with dedicated classrooms in it, is a step up to help us produce the best pilots in the world. We could not do this without support from the community."

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Willetts is education and city reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Mitchell? Send an email to mwilletts@enidnews.com.

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