Leaders at Stennis International Airport are gearing up for a new era of aviation. The Hancock County airport, once known as a place for small private planes, is beginning to attract large domestic and international cargo planes.
Privately owned planes and corporate jets take off and land at Stennis International Airport almost everyday. Aircraft like the C-130 cargo plane from the Egyptian Air Force are more rare, but airport leaders would like see large planes like that become frequent flyers at Stennis.
"We are indeed beginning to realize our dream that we've had for a number of years at Stennis International Airport. We've known for quite some time, as you know, that it's got a lot of potential," airport leader Hal Walters said.
Walters says several upgrades underway at the airport are helping them realize their dream. Improvements include strengthening and widening the taxiway from 50 to 75 feet. In March, officials plan to start construction on an air traffic control tower.
"With the added traffic that we're getting now and anticipating for the future, it's quite necessary for us to install an air traffic control tower will be FAA operated throughout the daylight hours for the better part of the day."
The improvements could not have come at a better time. Airport leaders recently landed a major military cargo contract that would bring cargo planes here on a routine basis.
"We expect to fully come to fruition sometime in February, early February actually. At that time we'll be able to talk a little more about it."
Walters says attracting cargo planes is vital to economic development. Big business and industry tend to located where cargo can be moved.
Other future upgrades at the airport include expanding the runway and installing an approach lighting system.