August 16, 2018
LAKE CHARLES, La. — Chennault International Airport reopened its 2-mile-long main runway today after four months of major repairs and upgrades.
Chennault staff walked the length of the runway side-by-side this morning checking for unwanted debris as a final safety measure before welcoming planes on what is the longest runway between Houston and Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Constructed over 70 years ago during the Cold War, the runway needed major rehab work. Crews spent the past four months pouring new concrete, adding state-of-the-art lighting, repainting and installing a blast pad.
The project will ensure that the runway remains capable of handling the world’s largest aircraft and continues serving the needs of civilian and military aircraft well into the future. Its impressive size —10,700 feet long, 200 feet wide and 17 inches thick — make it a prime asset for Southwest Louisiana and the state.
The project would have virtually shut down air operations at Chennault if not for a key preliminary effort: bringing up the parallel taxiway to runway standards to serve as an alternate runway during repairs on the main runway. Not only did this allow for uninterrupted service, it increased the airport’s flexibility and long-term stability.
Chennault was able to secure state and federal funding for both projects. The creative handling and packaging of runway repairs earned the airport the title of 2017 “Louisiana Airport of the Year” by the FAA. The award citation praised Chennault for using its “utmost creativity” in developing a plan to improve both its parallel taxiway and main runway without sacrificing service. The project has also impressed the regional business community, who chose Chennault to receive a “Positive Growth Award” at last month’s Alliance for Positive Growth banquet.
The reopening of the main runway allows for advanced approaches for aircraft using ILS — instrument landing system — and GPS technologies. Chennault’s fixed-based operator, Million Air, welcomes visiting air crews at its luxury rest and refueling terminal, and offers them $1 lunches—making the airport a popular stop for cross-country pilots.
“This runway has been a huge asset to the Southwest Louisiana people and the nation as a whole, first as an Air Force base and now as an industrial and commercial hub,” said Chennault Executive Director Kevin Melton. “Our team had the forethought to make these repairs so that Chennault could serve the needs of future generations. It’s a proud day for the airport and the region.”
Chennault International Airport is a major industrial airport in Lake Charles, La. The airport and its tenants employ some 1,500 persons and account for $300 million in annual economic impact.