September 25, 2018

Gov. Edwards Dedicates Chennault International Airport Expansion

More than $18 million in runway, lighting, taxiway improvements herald new era for Lake Charles industrial airport

BATON ROUGE – Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards joined airport and community officials in dedicating more than $18 million in runway, taxiway and lighting improvements at Chennault International Airport, a premier industrial airport serving Northrop Grumman, Bechtel, Citadel Completions, Louisiana Millwork, Landlocked Aviation Services, Million Air and other employers, while adjoining the region’s leading technical and community college, SOWELA.

Founded at the advent of World War II as a military base, the airport converted to industrial and commercial use in 1986. The airport name honors Gen. Claire Chennault of Louisiana, who commanded the famed Flying Tigers squadrons in China that were instrumental to World War II success in the Pacific Theater. Since 1986, Chennault International Airport has produced more than $7 billion in economic output, with the latest enhancements including implementation of all-LED runway lighting; widening of taxiways; and resurfacing, sealing and strengthening runways.

“With one of the longest runways along the entire Gulf Coast, Chennault International Airport ranks among the leading aerospace assets of our state and nation,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “We owe a debt to Gen. Chennault and all of our service men and women who have contributed so much to our freedom and prosperity through this airport. By combining millions of state and local dollars with federal aviation funding, we have ensured a bright future for Chennault International Airport and the continued growth of quality aerospace training and jobs for Southwest Louisiana.”

Chennault serves as a major hub for military and commercial Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul – or MRO – employers, such as Northrop Grumman and Citadel Completions. An Aircraft MRO Center of Excellence at SOWELA trains workers for Chennault’s aviation employers. In recent years, construction of the $21.5 million, 118,000-square-foot Hangar H extended MRO capacity for additional wide-body aircraft. The latest runway, taxiway and lighting improvements will enhance operations for existing tenants and will help attract future tenants to nearly 700 acres available for industrial development.

“This multiyear, multiagency effort is a result of strong collaboration between the Federal Aviation Administration, the State of Louisiana and Chennault International Airport,” said airport Executive Director Kevin Melton. “These efforts are designed to support the local taxpayer through recapitalization of our airport, which in turn will support the airport’s operational growth well into the future.

“This occasion is a proud moment for all residents of Louisiana, because it shows a strong desire to grow economically and a strong desire to support the residents in the region. The fact that Gov. John Bel Edwards and LED Secretary Don Pierson took time from their busy schedules to come to Chennault and host our ribbon-cutting ceremony clearly shows the strong desire they have to see Chennault continue its growth and establish itself as an economic driver in the aviation community within the region and state.”

For the project, over $3.8 million in general aviation capital outlay funds were appropriated through the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, with Chennault International Airport contributing more than $1.2 million in capital funds from its property tax and rental income sources. Those state and local funds were matched to $13.3 million in federal funds appropriated through the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Chennault, with its rich history, has always played a tremendous role in the story of our city,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said. “The continued growth of Southwest Louisiana is reliant on an economy that is diversified, and Chennault represents an essential thread of the economic fabric for not only Lake Charles, but also for the entire state of Louisiana. This rehabilitation project, coupled with other recent industrial expansion, represents a tremendous infrastructure improvement that will open the doors to further growth and future expansion for the region.”

At Chennault, the project investment enables aircraft pilots to use state-of-the-art instrument landing system and GPS technologies. The airport’s two-mile runway — 10,700 feet long, 200 feet wide and 17 inches thick — is capable of handling the world’s largest aircraft. Widening of the adjacent taxiway allowed that route to serve as the interim runway while renovations were made this year to the existing runway. Because of the widening and enhancement project, the taxiway now can serve as an alternate runway.

About Chennault

Chennault International Airport is a major industrial airport in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The airport and its tenants employ some 1,500 persons and account for $300 million in annual economic impact. For more information, visit