- Anna Cooper
Millington Airport Gets A Facelift
Article from Cypress Magazine
By Anna Cooper—Associate Editor Photos by Anna Cooper
While visiting my good friend Mr. Bill Norvell (see his story in May 2020 or on our website), we got to talking about everything happening in Millington, Tennessee. Mr. Bill is extremely knowledgeable about all sorts of things, including airplanes. You see, Mr. Bill is on the Board of Commissions at the Millington-Memphis Airport, so he got us in contact with Roy Remington, the airports’ Executive Director. Mr. Remington happily met with us to go through the history of the Millington Airport, and also talk about all the improvements being made to the site. From the runway to the hangar and all the details in between, this airport is a hidden gem that more people need to know about.
Remington started off with the most basic facts—beginning with the airport's inception. “Part of my job here is being someone who preserves the historical importance of this airfield. It’s actually the 4th oldest airport in the entire country. It was founded in 1917, as Park Field—a joint venture between the Memphis Chamber of Commerce and the City of Millington. They each raised fifty thousand dollars,” which was, and still is, a lot of money. “So think about Orville and Wilbur Wright and when they first took flight. It was only 14 years after that first powered flight that you had an airport here in Millington. It was used for World War One,” to train the US Army Signal Corps Aviation Section.
For a short time in between World War I and II, Park Field was closed and abandoned. The Department of War had officially purchased it in 1920, but by 1922 it was just a field. When the US entered WWII, the Navy commissioned the Naval Reserve Aviation Base. It was later renamed Naval Air Station Memphis and was used as a Naval Air Technical Training Center. During the Cold War the airfield served as a Naval Air Station and continued its support and logistics role for approximately 50 years. Remington picked up on the airfield's history from there, “In 1999, the US Navy closed the airfield portion of the base. They relocated everything south of Navy Road, so they still have about 7,000 people working for the Navy, but they handed the airport over to the City of Millington. At that point, the city chartered an airport authority and I work for the Millington Airport Authority. We are an independent unit of government, but we help preserve and promote the airfield’s growth.”
Something Mr. Bill mentioned when we were discussing the airport was what they found while working on improving the runway specifically. Remington knew exactly what happened and what Mr. Bill was talking about, “over the years the pavement gets old and it needs to be restored. So, over the years, the Navy had paved and re-paved it. As we dug down deeper and deeper, it was kind of like peeling an onion. We found older and older layers the further we went. This paving project we just finished was about 18.5 million dollars and we really just rebuilt the whole thing. It’s an 8,000-foot runway and it’s the third-longest in the State of Tennessee. So it’s a pretty big asset for the region.” So big in fact, that when it came time to start the 18.5 million dollar reconstruction of their runway, the Airport had to work closely with the FAA to certify the parallel taxiway as a temporary runway. “This allowed the University of Memphis flight program based at the Airport to continue serving the twenty Diamond DA-20 aircraft operated by Crew Training International.” Remington also went through and presented what the State of Tennessee did to help plot the airport's data. “The State of Tennessee did a study to try and figure out all the destinations that were served from Millington over the course of a year. They came back with a map that highlighted that, not only do we serve a lot of domestic areas but there are actually international flights that originate from the Millington airfield. They go as far South as places like Mexico and Costa Rica. It’s pretty interesting to see that the regional airport here is providing connections for businesses and for people that live in this area, all over the world.” Remington mentioned that it’s primarily business, but personal flights do play a rather large role in the flights that come and go from Millington.
Another interesting part of this airfield is that “We have our own fire department at the airport. So we employ 15 firefighters and that fire station remains open 21 and a half hours per day. We meet Index E requirements by the FAA. We can handle the largest sizes of aircraft and then we have an air traffic control tower out on the field that’s also open for 21 and half hours a day. It opens at 5:30 in the morning and stays all the way open until 2 in the morning.” As for the facility itself, Remington listed everything the Millington- Airfield offers. “We have one run-way that’s 8,000 feet long by 150 feet wide. It’s the third-longest in the state of Tennessee and we’ve got about 20-acres of concrete ramp. The building,” that houses the airport, “is located near the air traffic control tower. We have 40 T-hanger tenants and then we have about 15 Corporate hangar tenants. We have the University of Memphis Flight school located on the campus. We also have a maintenance repair hanger that we currently have a million-dollar renovation project going on that will fix it up. Once that’s back online, we’ll have a maintenance operator in there.” Now that all the work is complete on the runway, “the Airport will host the U.S. Navy Blue Angels on June 18-19, 2022 for the Midsouth Airshow presented by FedEx. The air show brings over 75,000 people to the airport, showcasing what an incredible asset this facility is to the region,” Remington said. Tickets to the June 18-19, 2022 event are available online at MidsouthAirshow.com.” A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being scheduled for the new runway, with a tentative date of December 21st, 2021.