Chennault International Airport Authority’s purpose is economic development and creating jobs.
“One of the biggest things we hang our hat on is our runway,” said Kevin Melton, the facility’s executive director. “It’s very significant from an airport perspective because we have the longest runway between Houston and Cape Canaveral, Fla.”
Melton told members of Saturday’s 100 Men Breakfast at Greater St. Mary Church that the facility’s two-mile runway gives Chennault a “global reach.”
“It means I can launch an airplane out of Chennault and fly direct, nonstop, without landing until it reaches the other side of the world,” he said. “The only way to be able to do that is a long runway. Large jets that take on a lot of gas and are really heavy need lots of runway to be able to get airborne.”
Melton, a retired Air Force colonel who served in the military for 24 years and later worked as a project manager for American Airlines, has been at the helm of the facility for nine months.
His objective, he said, is to take Chennault to the next level.
The airport, which encompasses 1,554 acres, has nearly 700 acres of undeveloped land available for growth. Melton said the facility has entered a contract with Cushman & Wakefield and NAI Latter & Blum to market the land, which includes Mallard Cove, to global investors.
Melton said the airfield has five large, certified sites to provide future tenants a range of development opportunities.
Four of those five certified sites have rail frontage, and all five provide direct access to the airport’s runway facilities.
“If we play our cards right and we do all the right things and we make good business decisions, we’ll reestablish our foundation and recapitalize on that foundation to take Chennault well into the future in regard to capability.”
Melton said it takes $6.8 million dollars annually to run the facility, which is funded through tenant leases, a parish property tax millage, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation and Development.
Chennault’s major tenants include Landlocked Aviation Services, Citadel Completions, Louisiana Millwork/Masonite, Million Air, Bechtel and Northrop Grumman.
“They come here because we offer great services, we take care of the customer, our priority is safety and we have a two-mile runway,” he said.
Melton said “it’s not cheap to run an airport” but he takes his position as a steward of taxpayer money seriously.
“I’m a firm believer that in my position, you demand me to be a good steward of the taxpayer dollar and I demand that of myself because it’s my tax dollars, as well,” he said. “We’ve got to make good business decisions that are going to grow more jobs in the future. That’s the bottom-line objective.”
Melton said he is “positive and excited that great things are ahead” for Chennault.
“The footprint of Chennault today is not what it’s going to be tomorrow, I assure you,” he said.