Keeping Vicksburg airport open was correct move

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 8, 2015

For the foreseeable future, the Vicksburg Municipal Airport will remain open.

In an unusual move, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen decided by mutual agreement to keep the city’s airport open after spending time weighing the pros and cons of closing it in favor of Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport in Mound, La., or keeping it open. The final decision makes good fiscal sense.

As North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield pointed out recently, there are still too many questions surrounding the effect of closing the airport to make a decision now to shut it down.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“If we vote to close it, where are we going to get the money to pay, because we’re going to have to pay some money back,” Mayfield said, referring to the $1.3 million in total Federal Aviation Administration and Mississippi Department of Transportation grants allocated toward airport safety. Of that total, $813,794 is federal funds.

And there are the tenants.

“You have those tenants, who, if we close today, would have nowhere to go and there’s not enough hangars (for them) across the bridge (at Vicksburg-Tallulah),” he said.

The future of the 14 pilots who have planes here was a major consideration in the airport decision.

Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport director Randy Woods told Mayor George Flaggs Jr. in July the airport does not have the capacity to handle the extra planes if Vicksburg Municipal closed.

Woods said he wants to expand hangar space at the airport by building 10 T-hangars, adding he presently has 16 pilots on a waiting list for hangars — five of them from Vicksburg.

The problem, Woods said, is getting the four partners — Vicksburg, Warren County, Madison Parish, La., and Tallulah, La. — that own the airport to pay about $200,000 each to cover the estimated $750,000 to build the hangars, adding the VTR Board “has done everything it can to push the hangars forward.”

Faced with the possibility of having to repay the state and FAA, forcing pilots out with nowhere to go, hiring a contractor to remove the hangars and having nothing to replace the airport as a revenue source, the board did the only feasible thing it could do. It kept the airport open.

There is no doubt the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport will one day become the sole airport for this region. It is more modern; it has greater potential and can serve many different types of aircraft.

But the time when VTR becomes the aviation hub for the Vicksburg-Tallulah region is still years in the making, and until it has the capacity to handle Vicksburg’s planes and others, the region will need two airports, and that means Vicksburg Municipal airport has a niche in this area.

There are some people who will praise the city for keeping it open and others who will curse the board for not closing it, and tug of war between the municipal airport’s opponents and proponents will continue long after the region has one airport.

As Mayfield put it, “It’s an issue the three of us will never win.”