STONE COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Congress has awarded nearly $5.7 million for improvements at 12 small, rural airports in Mississippi. Included in the appropriation is $1.6 million for the Dean Griffin Memorial Airport just outside of Wiggins.
The Dean Griffin Memorial Airport has served the Stone County area since 1962. There is no passenger service in or out of the facility. No cargo is delivered or picked up, but 10 private single engine planes call the airport home.
Most of the planes are used for recreational flights and some for business aviation. One of the airport’s assets is its location.
“It’s ideal because they don’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle of going into Gulfport or Hattiesburg. Within 45 minutes to an hour, they can be in Hattiesburg, Gulfport or the surrounding area,” said Airport Manager Duron Hatten.
The government, including the military, has used the runway here over the years. The $1.6 million awarded by the federal government will be used to rehabilitate existing apron pavement, repair 3,500 feet of the runway and pave the taxiway. The work is long overdue.
"It’s been over 20 years since this runway has been paved. The surface is falling apart rapidly. Water intrusion is getting into the sub surface. If we don’t control that, we’ll lose the runway,” according to Wiggins City Engineer Ryan Tice.
The grant will come from the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Federal Aviation Administration. The project has been advertised, bids will be accepted by July, and work is expected to begin in the fall.
The FAA believes it’s important to improve safety at small rural airports and facilities like this one that can be a part of future efforts to draw industry to the area and encourage economic development.
The Airport Board and officials in Stone County and Wiggins do have expansion plans for Dean Griffin Memorial Airport.
“We’re adding a helopad. We’ve just put in a GPS approach system where pilots can use instruments to fly in here," Tice said.
As part of the more than $5 million appropriation, Stennis International in Hancock County will get $700,000 for a taxiway pavement project as well.