Airport could be an economic engine

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 8, 2014

This week Vicksburg Municipal Airport’s executive director Sam Washington spoke of his plan to make the city’s residents aware they have a facility that is a useful tool for promoting the city.
“Anyone who’s willing to give me the time to talk, I’ll go talk. First of all, to remind them that they’ve got a great airport just down the road and when you have guests that you’re working with, or sponsoring, or trying to get to the city, don’t forget us.
A licensed pilot with a bachelor’s degree in management, a master’s of business administration and a master’s degree in commercial aviation, Washington took over as airport director May 12 with the retirement of longtime director Curt Follmer. He teaches commercial aviation at Delta State, and is working on a Ph.D. in leadership from Walden University.
The airport has gone through tough times. There was an attempt in 1998 by the administration of former mayor Robert Walker to close the airport in favor of the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport across the Mississippi River in Madison Parish, La. In 2011, water from the Mississippi River flood covered a portion of the south runway, closing the airport for a brief period. Both times, the airport survived.
It was during the administration of former mayor Laurence Leyens that the airport underwent a resurgence that included repairs and improvements funded mostly by state and federal funds.
Since 2005, it has benefited from an estimated $3.1 million in federal and state funds that have helped city officials improve the runway, build a new fire station and terminal, and purchase and clear property at the end of the north runway to help pilots approaching the airport.
Washington has an idea to set up a light sport aircraft show.
Light sport aircraft, Washington said, is the newest classification of aircraft the Federal Aviation Administration has certified.
“They’re not very prevalent, so I think this will be a great little spot to host a show, where we could get some of those manufacturers and sales folks to bring some of those planes in here, invite the public and the flying public to come here and check the planes out, talk to the vendors, and get some demo rides,” he said.
“Who knows? One of those manufacturers might be interested in locating here.”
There’s a strong belief by state and federal agencies of the airport’s viability, and faith by the current and previous city boards in the airport’s future and its place in the city’s economic development plans. The Vicksburg Municipal Airport might not have the traffic of regional airports in Jackson or New Orleans, but what it does have makes it an economic driver for Vicksburg.

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