By Ralph Dickerson
After many years of hard work and planning, the runway extension at the Hancock County Airport became a reality last week when crews finished constructing the 1,000-foot extension, which increases the field’s runway to 5,000 feet. Now the only thing left to do is install the lighting for the runway to be officially open.
Hancock County Airport Board Chairman Tim Powers said it takes eight to 10 weeks to get all the material to install the lighting, and about six weeks to install the lights, wiring and other needed infrastructure for the lights.
“I am hoping we will be completed somewhere around the end of January of 2021,” Powers said. “We will be one of the most up-to-date airports around again.”
Donn Wimmer, vice-chair of the Hancock County Airport Board, said the extension is to serve local industry. “Extending the runway to 5,000 feet allows local industry to land their corporate jets here,” Wimmer said. “We also have jet fuel available for them.”
Extending the runway to 5,000 feet helps Hancock County in two ways. First, it helps retain existing industry. Corporate officials routinely fly to their various industrial facilities to hold meetings with local plant management. With the Hancock County Airport being mere minutes from all of the large industrial plants in the county, it allows officials to quickly travel to the plants once they land. In addition, a nice meeting room exists at the airport, and they could hold a meeting at the airport if desired.
Secondly, when it comes to economic development, officials often say the most important mile of asphalt is an airport runway. Industries today look to locate in areas where they can quickly access their facilities for important meetings. Not only do they look for access to building sites by road, rail and water, they also look for how quickly they can access a site by air. If a potential building site has the road, rail and water access, but access by air is not easily available, company officials look for sites that contain all four means of access.
“5,000 feet steps us up to the next level,” Powers said. The Hancock County Airport sits between Picnic Road and Greathouse Road, east of Lewisport, near the Aleris rolling mill.
While the runway extension is done, it is not officially open yet. Only the original 4,000 feet of the runway is open for aircraft to use.