Rain has slowed the paving of the 1,500-foot runway extension at Midcoast Regional Airport at Wright Army Airfield, but officials remain happy with its progress.
When the extension is complete in the fall the runway will be 6,500 feet long. This will accommodate more corporate aircraft, such as Gulfstreams and larger planes that have been unable to land on the present 5,000-foot strip.
Earlier this month, the Joint Management Board of the civilian partners in the airport, which is shared with the Army, approved a $512,000 annual budget. Liberty County, the city of Hinesville and the Liberty County Development Authority partner with Fort Stewart in the joint airport.
Each of the three will contribute $57,000 toward airport operations for the next 12 months.
The latest special purpose local option sales tax approved by Liberty voters is now making a $160,000 annual payment to retire the airport bonds.
Midcoast owes the development authority $122,000 from costs that the LCDA fronted during startup. That figure had been more than $200,000 but the other two partners have made some payments on this debt.
Midcoast makes money from aviation fuel sales and hangar rentals. The longer runway could draw more and larger planes and that should increase fuel sales. A major boost to fuel sales would be events like a squadron of Army Apache helicopters training at the airport or providing fuel for the Army’s, drones. The Army has a complex for what it calls unmanned aerial vehicles near Midcoast.
Officials seem to agree that the best hope for getting the airport out of the red is an Army fuel contract. Those agreements are now structured to purchase fuel for both Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah.
When State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, a member of the LCDA, asked recently what were the prospects for getting airport operations into the black not many answers were offered and the Army fuel contract was seen as the best of them.
Midcoast’s revenue from hangar rental seems to offer a brighter picture. Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown said all but one of the hangars are rented and producing income. “The airport is continuing in a positive direction,” he said.