For the first time in more than 45 years, planes took off and landed on both parallel runways at North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field Thursday morning. Airport officials reopened the 4,000-foot 17-Right runway following a $70,000 restoration project.
The runway was decommissioned in 1971 with the closure of the airbase and its transition to a general aviation airport. With the opening, all three of the airport’s runways — the two parallel strips and a crosswind runway — are now in operation, officials said.
“It is an exciting day at North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field,” Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said Thursday. “It is the first time since 1971 that we have had the two runways in operation, so we are pretty excited about that.”
The move to restore the former military runway started last year following an increase in airport operations. The additional runway will allow the airport to better segregate traffic coming in and out of the airport, with smaller aircraft primarily using the restore strip. This would allow larger commercial and freight aircraft to use the larger 9,000-foot runway.
Magers said with the additional traffic created particularly by the US Aviation Flight School, some larger aircraft have been delayed in landing. If an aircraft were forced to circle the airport and wait to land, it could cost hundreds of dollars in fuel, he said.
“I think the timing was just right because our traffic has increased drastically in the past year or so, and I think it is just good customer service for our jet aircraft so we do not slow them down,” NTRA Airport Manager Bob Torti said.
With the new dedicated space, Magers said airport officials hope this will allow the airport to appeal and attract more interest and tenants in the freight and commercial airline industries.
“This is one step in the right direction, this will get us to where we can start going after some of the larger commercial traffic by having US Aviation and some of the smaller planes segregated from the bigger planes,” he said. “It is a safety issue as well.”
The restoration comes as county and airport officials have pushed for the airport to be included in the Federal Aviation Administration’s contract tower program, which will move funding responsibility for the tower to the FAA. Earlier this year, NTRA was accepted as a candidate for the program, and Magers said he feels this will only help the airport’s case.
“I think what you are going to see here is, we now have two runways,” Magers said. “So the need for the tower is greater even. It is going to be an indirect influence on that, but it is definitely a positive push in the right direction.”
The repairs to the strip included a repaint and reseal of the existing asphalt and the removal of overgrowth and weeds from the path at a cost of about $70,000. By comparison, Magers previously said it would cost $7 million to fully rebuild the runway to modern standards.
Magers noted that the project was funded 50 percent through a grant issued by the Texas Department of Transportation, leaving only a $35,000 cost to local taxpayers. If the airport is able to market this feature, Magers said the project could turn into a revenue maker.
“If we move the needle just 5 percent, this pays for itself,” he said.
With the runway in place, officials are now eyeing the remaining 4,500 feet of the runway which still needs repairs. While the ultimate goal is to bring the entire length up to operational condition, Torti said it is not in the budget currently.