Wednesday, officials with the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority said that, if all goes as planned, construction on a general aviation airport in west Oak Ridge could begin in late 2018 or early 2019.
Meeting at McGhee Tyson Airport Wednesday, the Airport Authority’s General Aviation Committee approved an airport layout plan that will now be passed along to the Federal Aviation Administration for review and approval. The FAA has already approved the site of the airport, which will be built on the south side of the former home of K-25, now known as Heritage Center, with a 5000-foot-long runway that will be able to accommodate general aviation and corporate aircraft, but not commercial jetliners. The airport layout plan is a more detailed document that includes information and specs for runway lengths, runway ramps and other logistical data. The proposed runway would run parallel to Highway 58.
Officials estimate the project’s cost at somewhere between $35-40 million and that it will be paid for through a mix of federal and state funding as well as by the Airport Authority itself. Once construction begins, the Oak Ridge airport could be open for business about a year and a half later. In addition, officials say that the new airport will be able to be expanded upon if necessary to serve the largest general aviation aircraft.
The Oak Ridge facility would be the third for the Airport Authority, joining McGhee Tyson in Alcoa and the Downtown Island Airport in Knoxville. Currently, airplane hangars at both are at capacity with a waiting list for pilots needing a place to base their aircraft.
Pending FAA approval, the Department of Energy will transfer the approximately 170-acre site to the Airport Authority. Officials say that planners will be dealing with a possible re-routing of a haul road on the property and a section of Blair Road as well as demolishing three buildings and addressing power line and railroad-related issues.