Regional Airport Debate

October 25, 2005--Posted at 5:15 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR--Craighead County will not be on board with plans to locate a regional airport at Walnut Ridge. Last night Craighead County Judge Dale Haas pulled a resolution that would have supported a feasibility study making the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport the area's regional airport.

"By pulling their resolution we are not saying we are opposed we just don't want to stand in their way in their future either," said Judge Haas.

One of the concerns associated with the project is a hefty price tag.

"They say in the long run it will cost 70 and 150 million dollars to make it a regional airport," said Haas.

A cost that in this current economic climate might not make sense.

"There's lots of Air Force bases all over the country that are closed down if the federal government tried to pick up the tab to make them regional airports how feasible is that in the financial dire straits this country is already in," said Haas.

Alot of comparisons are made to the airport in Fayetteville where you will find a population of more than 450,000 radius of the airport. If you go to the Walnut Ridge airport you'll find a population of more than 400,000 but it takes a 60 mile radius, a more centralized location would be that of Jonesboro.

"We think we would be sending a mixed signal if we supported a survey because we think we are more in the center of the region than Walnut Ridge," said Wallace Fowler of the Jonesboro Airport Commission.

In addition Jonesboro Airport Commission members feel that they already have plans in place to make the Jonesboro airport a more suitable location.

"Strengthening the main runway extending the runway another 800 feet which gives us more than enough for any kind of aircraft that would ever want to come in here," said Fowler.

The Jonesboro facility is also building a fire station, and is looking to acquire more hanger space.

"I think we have all that is needed certainly for commercial airlines or passenger service," said Fowler.

Fowler acknowledges that the airport is somewhat limited by space needed for airport related industries. But in the end the commission felt the study at Walnut Ridge went against what is already being done in Jonesboro.

"I'm not opposed to them doing their study if they want to do their study but do i really think it is feasible at this time then i honestly have to say no," said Haas.

Since 2002, the Jonesboro airport has been serviced by federally
subsidized Mesa Airlines which offers flights to Dallas.