McGhee Tyson building new, longer runway to attract more airlines

ALCOA (WATE) - Some big changes are in the works at McGhee Tyson Airport. A multi-year project will end with a few new things, including a runway that's brand new and longer.

The hope is it will attract more flights. The new and longer runway will bring the airport up to FAA approval for just about every commercial plane and company that might want to fly in and out of the Knoxville area.

The project began in 2015. Bill Marrison with the airport says major improvements are being made - everything from added lights, irrigation, wiring, markings, and the longer runway.

"The runway currently, or was 9,000 feet before we closed it. The new runway will be 10,000 feet long. It opens up several opportunities for us," said Marrison.

It's the "if you build it, they will come" idea. The idea is to break the old runway down into smaller pieces, recycle and reuse it in the current project.

"This is definitely the beginning stages of that," said Marrison. "We do not have anybody that's committed to coming to Knoxville if you get 10,000 feet, but if it's available, it makes those kinds of services easier to sell."

They particularly want to get Southwest Airlines intersted in McGhee Tyson.

"I always think Knoxville is right for that and, of course, having a brand new airfield is certainly something that would be attractive to them because they don't like airfields that's constrained for their use. They like to fly anytime they want to," Marrison said.

Phase one of three is done. The new, longer runway being built now is phase two. The whole project is slated to be complete in 2020.

A lot of the money for the project comes from user fees, which show up on your ticket as PFC, or "passenger facility charge." Part of the $36 goes to the project while the rest goes to other things to keep the airport operating like electricity. Every airport has a PFC charge so if you don't fly out of Knoxville, you're not directly paying for this project.

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