INDEPENDENCE — The Independence Municipal Airport soon will bear the name of its retired longtime manager.
The airport is set to be renamed James J. Connell Field during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house Saturday. Connell spent more than 45 years growing the aviation community in Independence, according to a media release from the Connell Aviation Group.
Community members are welcome to either fly or drive in from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the airport.
Connell first started his airport operations business at the municipal airport in 1967 before moving to the airport manager role in 1980. Much of his legacy is the hosting of public events, including free air shows, in an effort to bring awareness to the airport.
“During his tenure, Jim Connell felt strongly about bringing awareness and knowledge about the benefits of the airport to the community. He enjoyed showcasing the benefits of the airport facilities to residents of Independence and surrounding communities,” according to the release.
Among his personal accomplishments, Connell’s name has been placed on a scroll in the Wright Brothers building in Washington, D.C. and in 2015 he was inducted into the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame.
“One of the highlights of my aviation career includes the many friends I made along the way,” Connell said in the release. “It was the pleasure of my life to share the love of aviation with my family and friends.”
The city’s original airport location was a grass strip on old Highway 20, west of the current location, Since that time, Connell stewarded the airport through a number of improvements.
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In 1971, Connell, along with area airport supporters, helped build the new location’s first office building when the city of Independence sent enough lumber to build a structure about the size of a double garage, according to the release.
Connell’s last expansion that he led as manager in 2011 included securing $17.5 million. As he noticed the airport was attracting more corporate flights rather than just casual flyers, the airport was transformed to add a longer runway.
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