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Airport expansion complete

- Just before the holiday began last week, local officials gave thanks for a newly-expanded runway at Manassas Regional Airport. The Nov. 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the airport celebrated the completion of the project that lengthens the runway by 500 feet.

Airport expansion complete

Courtesy Photo/City of Manassas Planes line the runway at Manassas Regional Airport, where a longer runway will allow for expanded business.
Just before the holiday began last week, local officials gave thanks for a newly-expanded runway at Manassas Regional Airport.

The Nov. 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the airport celebrated the completion of the project that lengthens the runway by 500 feet.

Jolene Berry, the senior airport operations officer, said on Monday that the longer runway means big corporate jets can now carry full tanks of fuel.

The heavier a plane, she said, the harder it is for it to take off, meaning the larger jets that use Manassas Regional Airport often have a little more trouble, especially when they're weighed down with a full tank of fuel.
That's especially true in the summer.

“On a hot summer day when it's really humid out, the air is really thick,” she said.

On those days, the largest of the airport's planes haven't been able to fill their tanks completely because they can't get off the ground with that much weight. So those that do use the airport have to stop halfway and refuel for cross-country trips. Or, worse for the airport, they don't pick Manassas at all but fly in and out of Dulles instead.

The new longer runway makes it easier to take off, so jets will no longer have that problem, she said.

It also makes landings safer in the winter, giving them more distance for braking on snow or ice.

The extra length won't allow for larger aircraft because there are other size restrictions at the airport, but it will help give existing customers more use and flexibility, she concluded.

Nancy Hiteshue, vice president and spokesperson for the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, said that flexibility is vital for the county's business community.

“Certainly expanding the airport and the runway makes it more attractive for businesses to relocate,” she said, adding that it also “allows existing businesses the opportunity to expand or market to new customers.”

The longer runway also means the airport “can take overflow from Dulles,” she said.

And since companies with a lot of large corporate jets generally have to use Dulles, it's been a hard sell getting them to move to Manassas, she said. If their planes have to come and go from Dulles anyway, why not put their headquarters there?

But now, the Manassas Airport can handle the weight, meaning relocation just got a lot more attractive.

“It's a smaller airport,” she said. “It's easier to get in and out of then Dulles Airport.”

That's a line that economic development officials will likely be using in the coming months as they try to market the county and city to new businesses.

According to Patty Prince, a spokesperson for the City of Manassas, a 2010 study indicated that the airport has contributed more than $234.6 million in economic activity for the area and has created more than 1,056 jobs.

Prince also said in a written statement that the $4.6 million expansion was primarily paid by the Federal Aviation Administration, which contributed 90 percent of the total.

The Virginia Department of Aviation contributed 8 percent and the airport kicked in the final 2 percent, she said.
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