Onslow County airport expansion to boost economy

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 7:58 PM EST
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RICHLANDS, N.C. (WITN) - State representatives and Onslow County officials announced a $29 million investment from the newly adopted state budget to expand the runway at Albert J. Ellis Airport.

The extension will allow larger planes to use the airport. A runway that can accommodate larger aircraft means more opportunities for the county.

“This is one of the projects we thought would be a very good one for Onslow County, good for the airport. Onslow County is in a great location, centrally located between Wilmington, New Bern, and Eastern North Carolina and there could be some possibilities for there to be a hub here for FedEx and UPS,” Phil Shepard, Onslow County state representative said.

Onslow County hopes to attract the services of larger shipping companies that do overnight and rapid delivery.

The runway expansion will also allow for larger airlines to accommodate direct flights from the airport out west.

“We think this runway extension will make it more efficient for the airlines to operate here and it will have fewer weight penalty wing restrictions. The airport will also be able to host more cargo flights, larger aircraft such as charters. Also, Marines are from everywhere across the country so the more direct flights we get to different destinations the better,” Chris White, Albert J. Ellis Airport director said.

Travelers going west like Chance Sargent and his family say they would appreciate the chance for a direct flight.

“We are going to Atlanta first for our layover, for about four hours. And obviously kids don’t like that, I don’t like that. I don’t want to do that. I’d rather go straight to where we’re going and just get there,” Sargent said.

Albert J. Ellis is one of the largest airports in Eastern North Carolina. It sees more than 326,000 passengers a year on average, which is more than the Pitt-Greenville and New Bern airports.

The expansion is expected to bring over 3,400 new jobs, and generate about $19 million in state and local tax benefits for the county.

County officials say the grant for the runway expansion is the largest ever for Albert J. Ellis Airport and will have an economic impact of $565 million a year.

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