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Soaring higher with $1.6 Million improvement project planned

Airport Manager Dave Garris showing plans for accommodate growing business. Photo by Tate Davis.

By Tate Davis
Freelance Writer


Johnson County Airport is rushing to complete $130,000 in improvements before winter.
The list includes seal coating asphalt, refreshing markings, and updating runway designations. Due to shifts in the earth’s magnetic fields, the airport compass has changed. Since airfield runways are numbered to reflect compass bearings, current Runway 24 will become 25, and Runway 6 will become 7.
Airport Manager Dave Garris hopes to break ground on a new parallel taxiway in June to enhance safety significantly by eliminating back taxiing on the single runway. The 2022 construction is projected to cost $1.6 Million. Johnson County already approved $55,000 for the local share of the project.
Plans call for adding twenty-eight hangars to meet the rising demand for indoor parking. Limited space has restricted traffic visiting Johnson County. Over twenty aircraft are on a waiting list. Garris wants to “maximize the facility’s potential” by consolidating corporate and private operations at the west end of the field. Adding space would also help Garris capitalize on a flourishing aircraft repair business.
Meeting that goal would require relocating existing hangars when private
leases on them expire in
2025. The privately leased hangars take up 439 feet, storing three airworthy aircraft. In contrast, county and public hangars are housing twenty-two aircraft in just 230 feet of space.
But things can get a bit controversial as the consolidation plans may depend on whether County Commissioners adopt the Airport Advisory Board’s October 5 recommendation or extend the leases for ten years on their current terms at their next meeting.
The airport logged 2,560 aircraft operations and some 1,860 powered paraglider flights this year. Garris has attracted $1.9 Million in federal and state grant funding since 2012.
And, for a good reason. In 2019, the Tennessee Department of Transportation estimated Johnson County Airport contributed over $1 Million to the economy.
That economic impact is expected to rise. Boondocks Flight, LLC opened for flight instruction this year. Boondocks operates two aircraft now, while Garris’ team restores a Cessna Cardinal 177 to become the school’s primary trainer. The facility is in discussions with a potential glider training vendor, but that would also require more space.