By STEVEN NALLEY
Golden Triangle Regional Airport will hold a ribbon cutting Thursday at 2 p.m. for a new runway extension that will reduce restrictions on summer travel and attract larger aircraft.
Mike Hainsey, executive director at GTR Airport, said the ceremony will start in the upstairs part of the terminal. After a series of presentations, he said, buses will carry attendees to the runway, where the formal ribbon cutting will take place.
Doug Murphy, southern region administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration, will also be on hand to make remarks and join the ribbon cutting. The event will also feature drinks and light refreshments.
Hainsey said the runway extension provides extra safety and capacity for aircraft that use GTR, including Delta Air Lines, business jets, and jets that come from Columbus Air Force Base to train at GTR. He said a longer runway allows aircraft already using GTR to carry more weight during the hot summer months.
“For example, the 50-passenger regional jet that Delta flies out of here requires 8,000 feet to leave fully loaded during the hot months,” Hainsey said. “Before, the airline had to restrict the number of passengers and the amount of bags to be able to operate safely. They no longer have the restriction. In addition, the numerous charter aircraft that bring in sports teams to Mississippi State University can now operate at higher weights. We normally get aircraft such as Boeing 737s and 757s here for the football charters.”
The runway extension will also allow GTR to attract larger aircraft as the airport grows, whether for industries or airlines, Hainsey said. That makes the extension a critical part of the growth plan for the 2,500-acre Golden Triangle Global Aerospace Park to the airport’s west.
“Finally, the Air Force T-38 from Columbus AFB has a minimum requirement of 8,000 feet, so we can now support the Air Force mission more fully,” Hainsey said. “Currently, 42 percent of our traffic is from the aircraft at Columbus AFB. That will increase.”
Hainsey said the project cost a total of $10.5 million, paid for with airport funds and grants from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Mississippi Development Authority. While construction started in 2010, Hainsey said, the process to get funding and approval began about six years ago.
“The FAA has very strict qualification requirements, including environmental and operational criteria,” Hainsey said. “We started with a detailed environmental impact study, then worked the operational justification with the FAA.”
Golden Triangle Regional Airport will celebrate its 40th anniversary on September 1. Hainsey said the runway construction was not connected to this anniversary.