June 17, 2011 10:30:00 AM
Garthia Elena Burnett -
The sky''s not the limit.
The limit is "the length of the runway."
Those were the words of a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman, as the Golden Triangle Regional Airport announced that it has just expanded its limits, adding 1,500 feet to its formerly 6,500-foot runway.
The expansion means "endless possibilities," GTRA Executive Director Mike Hainsey told a crowd at the runway''s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Thursday.
"It gives us the capacity to grow ... but I tell you, it''s more than that. It''s vision," Hainsey said.
The vision for an 8,000-foot runway was born with the airport. Planners left a blueprint outlining the potential expansion.
Completion of the $10.5 million project also means realizing another vision -- a 2,500-acre industrial park geared toward the aerospace industry.
The Columbus-Lowndes Development Link unveiled a plan in 2008 to create the GTR Global Industrial Aerospace Park. The longer runway is one way to make the park more appealing to aerospace companies.
"It''s a vision to keep us growing, to keep us viable," Hainsey said of the aerospace park.
The runway expansion also means all of Columbus Air Force Base''s planes can utilize GTRA. With only 6,500 feet of runway, only two of the base''s three types of planes were able to land at the airport.
With 8,000 feet of runway, the T-38 now can join the T-1 and T-6, taking off from and landing at GTRA.
Much of the base''s weekend training happens at GTRA, since CAFB closes for business on the weekends, Seguin said. About 40 percent of the traffic at GTRA comes from planes based at CAFB, which boasts the busiest airstrip in the U.S. Air Force.
"The possibilities are unlimited," said David Shumate of the FAA office in Jackson. "You can go anywhere in the world."
The runway now has the capacity for heavier planes; the longer runway also increases safety.