By The Associated Press
COLUMBUS — Golden Triangle Regional Airport is opening a runway extension Thursday that local officials hope will attract larger planes and reduce restrictions on summer travel.
Mike Hainsey, GTRA executive director, told the Starkville Daily News the runway extension to 8,000 feet provides extra safety and capacity for aircraft that use GTRA, including Delta Air Lines, business jets, and jets that come from Columbus Air Force Base to train at the airport.
He said a longer runway allows aircraft already using GTRA 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 GTRA 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.”
The $10.5 million project was paid for with airport funds and state and federal grants.