Picayune airport continues to grow

Published 12:19 am Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Picayune Airport, located at the end of Runway Road off Ridge Road on Picayune’s southeastern side, continues to gradually expand and grow, and in an interview with the Picayune Item, airport director Andy Greenwood said that he was appreciative of Mayor Ed Pinero, Jr., and the City Council’s support.

“Without them we couldn’t do it; the airport is an extension of the council and city. Although we have a board of directors, the council oversees our operation and whatever we undertake. It’s a cooperative effort on both parts. We have to have the council’s input and support,” he said.

The airport sports a 5,000-foot runway, can handle small jets and is a boost to Picayune’s industrial development, allowing for easy quick assess to Picayune by businessmen and executives wanting to do business here and get back to their headquarters or home. The airplane parking lot in front of the terminal can handle 30 planes at a time.

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“Our airport is centrally located,” said Greenwood. “We are about half-way between Texas and Florida and there is a lot of air traffic between those two destinations. We have 24/7 fueling operations here, and that means when you need fuel, you can always drop in here and get fuel,” he said.

The Picayune Airport is located far enough from Gulf Coast beaches that it usually doesn’t take the brunt of any powerful hurricane that rakes the Gulf Coast.

In addition, the airport, said City Manager Jim Luke, is planning on keeping the terminal open around-the-clock, thus allowing pilots not only to fuel here at any time, but to rest and refresh themselves. Right now it’s open only five days a week. Luke said he has directed the police department to place the airport on a list of regularly scheduled checkpoints, giving the facilities better protection and safety. In addition to going around-the-clock at the terminal, Greenwood said he plans to install a well-designed sign at the terminal building, identifying the stop.

Long-range plans call for the airport runway to be extended an additional 2,000 feet, said Greenwood, but that is a long way off right now.

City Council members seemed agreeable to allowing the airport board to expend an additional $30,000 in the coming fiscal year for repairs to existing structures and equipment, for the new sign and for additional administrative functions.

The $30,000 will come out of the airport board’s existing cash balance, which is ample, said Greenwood. The airport for the last four years has been self-sustaining.

The recommendations for the new budget year for the airport will have to be included in the new budget and approved by the council for the airport board to move forward on the projects. But there is no opposition to the proposed airport upgrades and improvements. The council adopts the budget in September, and it takes effect on Oct. 1.

City officials pointed out last week that the airport is not just a facility that offers services to weekend pleasure travelers and airplane hobbyists, it is important to the industrial development of Picayune and Pearl River County

Said Luke, “The airport is a very important part here to our economy, and an economic stimulus for the city and the county.”

The airport is actually a small industrial park. Chevron has an air service facility here for its Gulf operations, and Phillips Aviation is a fixed-base operation for the air service industry.

In addition, the airport board has 38 hangers it rents. Right now 19 are filled. Greenwood said that is down because of the economic slump.

“However, we expect our airport hanger rentals to pick up as the economy improves,” he said.

Officials expect all the upgrades to be in place by the end of October.