No more747's coming to Walnut Ridge - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

No more747's coming to Walnut Ridge

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - The really large aircraft you see at the Walnut Ridge airport will be the last that Universal Asset Management brings in for disassembly. The 747's are having to divert.

The issue is not the runway length at Walnut Ridge, the issue is the ramp. It's big but it's not quite big enough or quite thick enough to handle a bunch of large aircraft .

Mayor Don House said he was a little surprised when UAM told him how many they planned to bring in. "They mentioned to us perhaps 45 this year. We can accommodate a few but we can't accommodate bunches of them."

Keri Wright the COO for Universal Management said this really wasn't a surprise.

"Because of the influx of growth over the last 5 years we have previously considered opening a wide body facility because we knew the Walnut Ridge Airport purely based on apron space we were going to run out of space."

There are currently 26 aircraft at the airport in various stages of disassembly.

Wright, "The Walnut Ridge Airport notified us they are unable to support wide body aircraft in the airport. So there really isn't any other option but to take the wide-bodies elsewhere."

And that elsewhere is the airport and city of Tupelo, Mississippi. The new facility will deal with large aircraft like the 747, 767 and larger airbuses. Also the company's warehouses here will be closed.

"We will move into a  453-Thousand square foot warehouse." said Wright, "We will be moving our Pocahontas warehouse as well as our Walnut Ridge warehouse inventory to Tupelo."

Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House says it's not the whole company leaving.

"They will continue with the employees that they have and hopefully will be able to expand and continue with their narrow-bodied airplanes." House said they are working with the company to see about facility needs.

The 747's are clustered together with smaller planes squeezed in amongst them putting a lot of weight on the nearly 80 year old concrete ramp. The ramp  isn't really thick enough to support aircraft as large as the 747. The city has had an engineer look at the ramp and some recent cracking.

House, "And the engineer feels that the weight of the large bodies is going to create us problems, if not now then in the future."

As to the fate of the current large bodies already at the airport. Wright says they will eventually be stripped of useable parts and then scrapped. They have not actually cut one up yet and she says it takes large specialized equipment but they can handle it.

So plane watchers you will have to be content with what is already parked there or new small body arrivals. To see a very large plane land at a fairly small airport  you will have to go to Tupelo.

Wright, "A 747 is on it's way next Saturday and it's coming whether we like it or not. It can't be in a holding pattern forever."

There are no definite times as to when the warehouses will be emptied nor how many jobs will be affected.

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