HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - When residents and visitors think of airports on the Coast, almost everyone thinks of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. But there's another airport to the west where business is booming these days. That is the Stennis International Airport. Just recently, the 8,500-foot-long runway was repaved for almost 5 million dollars.
Planes and jets coming and going is a common sight at Stennis International Airport every day. It keeps the people who man the traffic control tower busy.
Air Traffic Manager Chris Holloway explains how busy things can get.
"There's a lot of general aviation traffic that comes in here, but the majority of the traffic is military. So, it can go roughly from 250 to 300 op's a day, which comes out to about 40,000 a year," he explained.
While the tower is equipped with technology, sometimes the old-fashioned way works best, according to Holloway.
"Our biggest responsibility is to look out the windows, see the airplanes and make sure their wheels are down, make sure they are separated," Holloway explained.
The terminal is modern and nicely appointed. It even has a restaurant for those who come and go. And every year, the airport shows a profit for the county. That's the word from airport manager Kevin Carlisle.
"Traffic that comes into the county, the economic development, people flying here to open new businesses to the military trainers or students," he said.
Of course, the secret about this airport is starting to get out with the help of social media. Tiffany Goodwin is in charge of business development.
"We use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We use it often, and it's usually how people will follow us. And it's not just people in aviation, it's the public as well," Goodwin explained.
The airport is not resting on its laurels. Planes and jets are nice, but there's a future out there that is perfect for this airport to take advantage of, according to Carlisle.
"We're looking at the feasibility of having a horizontal, a rocket attached to an aircraft, that will fly out over a predetermined location in the Gulf and launch rockets into space."
Now here's more evidence of the economic impact of the airport on the Coast economy. Sixteen companies are located here on airport property, which totals 2500 acres. Those companies employ 430 people. The airport itself employs 20 people.