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Wed, Apr 26, 2023

Aircraft Damaged and Destroyed in MKC Gustnado

ATD Flight Systems Loses Entire Training Fleet

On Thursday, 20 April 2023, high, gusty winds resultant of a passing storm destroyed eight airplanes and damaged three others at Kansas City, Missouri’s Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (MKC).

The entirety of the destroyed and damaged aircraft belong to ATD Flight Systems, a flight school and 27-year MKC institution.

To the subject of the stricken aircraft, Joe McBride of Kansas City Aviation stated: “Aircraft wings are built aerodynamically for lift. So if you have heavy winds like we had early this morning around 5 a.m. or so, that wind gets underneath those aircrafts and it lifts them up and tosses them around.”

Mr. McBride added: “We’ve had some damage in the past here and at Kansas City International, but I’ve never seen in my thirty-years here anything to this extent.”

On the morning of the incident, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported 32-mile-per-hour winds at MKC with gusts up to 45-miles-per-hour. The NWS data is consistent with reports that the aircraft were damaged at or about 06:00 CST.

National Weather Service personnel posited the airport had been struck by an atmospheric phenomenon known as a gustnado—a portmanteau of gust and tornado. Gustnadoes form when wind gusts from passing storms result in weak cyclonic activity.

While some of the affected aircraft were flipped wholly upside-down, others were alternately impelled through airport perimeter fencing and hurled worryingly near an airport fuel-storage tank. One particularly unlucky plane was lifted over a levee on the airport’s south side—ascending intact but returning to Earth an agglomerate of twisted aluminum.

The Hays Family, which owns ATD Flight Systems, set forth in a statement: “The ATD Family is devastated by the severe storm damage to our aircraft Thursday morning. We are saddened to report that our fleet has been almost entirely wiped out. While the future of the flight school remains unknown, we are humbled by the support of our incredible staff and the words of encouragement from our community. We’ve been operating at the Downtown Kansas City Airport since 1996 and hope we are able to continue calling MKC home for years to come.”

ATD representative Keara Neifach confided the flight school’s training operation has been reduced to two undamaged airplanes.

ATD’s fleet, under normal circumstances, is hangared in a structure operated by Signature Flight Support MKC. Regrettably, a charity fund-raiser was being held in the Signature hangar on the night of the storm, and the aircraft ordinarily sheltered therein had been relegated to the airport ramp and the elements—albeit for a wholly noble cause.

For the past 12-years, Signature MKC has donated the hangar space to Bra Couture KC, a Kansas City charitable organization that raises money for under and uninsured cancer patients.

Signature MKC has yet to comment on the damaged and destroyed airplanes.

Ms. Neifach reported ATD will resume minimal operations focusing on check-ride prep for students nearing certification.

Citing drastic increases in the prices of light aircraft, Neifach, who serves as ATD’s Director of Operations, speculated insurance payouts were unlikely to cover the entire cost of repairing or replacing the damaged and destroyed aircraft.

A GoFundMe account has been set up by the company.

In a social media communique to the MKC aviation community, Ms. Neifach stated in part: “We are working as quickly as possible to restore our fleet, but we’re calling on the community to please help support our staff while we scramble to replace our aircraft. The funds that go to the GoFundMe will go directly towards lost wages for our team. Please consider donating and please also share this post.”

FMI:, ATD GoFundMe Page


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