Chennault helped lead Lake Charles out of the 1980s oil bust, when unemployment was at an all-time high.
By the mid-1980s the locals proposed to re-develop Chennault for economic purposes. The most marketable features were the unusually large runway and extensive property for potential tenants. At 10,700 feet long, 200 feet wide and 17 inches thick, the tarmac is equipped for the largest aircraft in the world.
The reconstituting of Chennault took place in 1986 and 1987, and it was a partnership of unprecedented proportion as local governments agreed to pool their shares of the site for the sake of desperately needed jobs.
The effort extended beyond Calcasieu Parish as well. In Baton Rouge, Gov. Edwin Edwards secured more than $40 million from the state legislature for infrastructure work. In Washington, D.C., Lake Charles Mayor Ed Watson and Sen. John Breaux were among those who promoted lifted restrictions, which allowed for economic enterprise at the dormant Chennault site.
By the end of 1986, the facility had re-emerged as Chennault International Airport and featured a governing board, a busy schedule of site improvements, and job training programs at Sowela.