A recently opened runway extension allows bigger jets to land and take off and puts Spartanburg in line to compete with larger airports for business-related air travel, airport officials say.
“Spartanburg now has a unique opportunity and is well-placed as an alternative to the Greenville-Spartanburg airport,” Charlie Hodge, chairman of the Downtown Airport Advisory Board, told Spartanburg County Council recently.
Hodge presented a report highlighting achievements for 2019 and indicated the airport will play a bigger role in helping economic recruiters attract more companies and jobs to Spartanburg County.
“It’s a showpiece now,” said Councilman David Britt, chairman of the county’s economic development committee. “I use the airport regularly. When you fly in now, it helps us land companies.”
A $30 million Federal Aviation Administration grant enabled the airport to extend the runway in 2019 from 5,200 feet to nearly 6,000 feet. Although 800 feet may not seem like a lot, it is a world of difference, according to Hodge.
“The length of the runway is huge in terms of what you can bring in,” Hodge said. “With a 6,000-foot number, you can bring in a 727 or 737 (jet).
“When I tell you that runway extension has opened the door to our economic activity, it really has. It means you can recruit businesses that otherwise wouldn’t pay us attention.”
By comparison, the Greenville Downtown Airport has a 5,393 runway and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport an 11,001-foot runway.
“The positive impact of that extension for our business and the aviation community is going to be felt for decades to come,” Hodge said.
Years ago, both Greenville and Spartanburg downtown airports handled commercial air service until 1962 when GSP opened.
Today, GSP is the primary airline destination in the Upstate for passenger and cargo service, supporting nearly 15,000 local jobs and adding nearly $650 million of income to the Greenville-Spartanburg economy. A study found the overall impact of GSP on the Upstate economy was $2.9 billion in 2018.