The Middle Georgia Regional Airport may not have many passenger flights taking to the air, but it could support the air maintenance and cargo industry. Macon Mayor, Robert Reichert, plans to head up a runway extension project to bring not only aircraft to Macon, but jobs as well.
"Knock your socks off. Absolutely knock your socks off and one of the reasons why I said that this is great asset is that we have got room for expansion here," said Reichert.
Just the idea of transforming the Middle Georgia Regional Airport into a transportation hub, gets Mayor Reichert exited about the economic possibilities. Reichert is partnering with airport officials to draw up a master plan that will be presented to the Federal Aviation Administration to see if a runway extension project would suit both parties.
Even though the airport lacks passenger air traffic, Reichert says it has other strengths.
"The potential we think is toward using it as aviation maintenance, aerospace, but air cargo rather than passenger traffic," said Reichert.
During the summer the airport added three inches of asphalt to the main runway, meaning its weight rating could go up bringing in bigger aircraft through middle Georgia.
"Currently the runway can handle 274,000 pound aircraft. And we expect when the final testing numbers come back it will be able to take considerably more than that...Probably 350,000 pounds is I believe what we're shooting for," said Airport Director, Scott Coffman.
In addition to adding depth to the runway, the mayor wants to lengthen the main runway by 1,500 to 2,000 feet, making it 8,000 to 8,500 feet long. The city would need to fund 5 percent of the project, or $7 million, to match FAA funding. Reichert says a regional SPLOST could fit the bill.
"It would be throughout the 11 county middle Georgia region...The project to extend the runway is in the final list now to be voted on by the round table," said Reichert.
The mayor says support of the project passing for the regional SPLOST looks strong. The regional SPLOST list will be narrowed down this fall by representatives of the 11 counties and then voted on by the public next year.
According to Scott Coffman the airport doesn't cost the city money out of the general fund it's financed fully by tenants. Reichert says the airport could be Macon's economic gem.
"There's been a lot of conversation in Georgia about the need for a second airport, that could serve as a reliever airport for Atlanta and at least get some of the cargo traffic out of there."
Coffman said around 1000 people work at the middle Georgia Regional Airport now. The master plan should be complete and ready to present to the FAA within the next couple of months.