SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - With her bags packed, Kingsport resident Sherry Rickards is getting ready to head to Phoenix.
When she heads that way, Rickards says she flies from the Tri-Cities Regional Airport. "A couple times a year at least, our whole family does. We figured out that it was much better to fly out of here than to drive to Knoxville or Nashville," adds Rickards.
The airport is celebrating 75 years and taking a look back at the history while making plans for the future. "The cities and counties will continue to guide the airport into the future," adds Executive Director Patrick Wilson.
The plans for the future include an airport authority, made up of surrounding regions including Bristol, Tennessee, Bristol, Virginia, Kingsport, Sullivan County, Johnson City and Washington County, Tennessee.
The newly-elected chair of the authority is former Bristol, Virginia Mayor James Rector.
Rector explains the authority can help the airport secure more grant money. "We can turn it around quicker. It's really a business operation decision. It will allow us to operate more efficiently," he said.
We're told the passengers flying in and out of the airport won't be impacted by the change, but there are some things in the works that could have a positive impact on the airport like some new construction.
"That will open up about 140 acres for future aviation and aerospace-related development. We hope that can be a key attraction for aviation and aerospace companies to come to the region," adds Wilson.
Passengers like Sherry Rickards say they're glad to have this regional airport to get to and from their destinations. "I hope it grows with the area. I'm sure it will," she said.
Here are some facts from the Tri-Cities Regional Airport: 16 commercial flights arrive and depart every day. That includes about a 13 percent drop in flights, which we're told airports all over the country have experienced.
Wilson adds the airline industry can be volatile and some of the airlines merging have had an impact on the flights in and out of the Tri-Cities.
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