Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why is the Jackson airport in Rankin County?

How did the Jackson airport come to Rankin County?  JJ is providing a history lesson on the airport this week since it is the topic of a brewing fight in the legislature.  The city determined it needed an airport since Hawkins Field could not handle commercial or military jet aircraft.  Baker Engineers produced a site analysis in 1956 for the Jackson Airport Commission.  Baker analyzed six possible sites for the construction of a new airport.  Engineer Michael Baker stated there were several factors considered in the site analysis:

  • Suitable topography for the grading and draining of a strip 2 1/2 miles long. 
  • Suitable topographic conditions to handle 1:50 glide angle approach zones. 
  • Areas relatively free of residences 
  • Areas free of obstruction to aviation
  • Easy access via ground transportation. 
 He said the best wind coverage was utilized by a NNW orientation of the runway.   Seven sites were considered: Bruce Campbell (Madison), John Bell Williams Airport (Hinds), Site A (Rankin), Site B (Madison), Site C (Hinds), Site D (Hinds & Madison)

The report disqualifies Site "B".  It was nine miles north of downtown Jackson and one mile west of U.S. Hwy. 51.  However, Baker states the southern approach zone would "prohibit the northeastern growth of Jackson.  The extended approach would include Tougaloo, power lines, and several towers.   Site "D" was disqualified for the same reasons.  It was 8 miles north of Jackson and two miles to the east of U.S. Hwy. 49.   

John Bell Williams Airport in Raymond was deemed to be too far from downtown Jackson. The CAA recommended that the new airport be have a transportation time of less than 25 minutes to downtown Jackson.   JBW scored well on the other factors but the report concluded that they were not enough to overcome the distance factor.  The report estimated the distance and travel times from the downtown post office to each site to be:

Hawkins Field: 4.5 miles, 11 minutes
Site "A": 7.1 miles, 13 minutes
Bruce Campbell Field: 13.1 miles, 20 minutes
John Bell Williams Airport: 15.4 miles, 28 minutes
Site C: 10.4 miles, 19 minutes.



 The airport would require a runway of 8,500 feet.  The military glide angle began at 1,000 from the end of the runway.  Baker analyzed the remaining sites:

Site "A": Six miles east of Jackson and two miles north of U.S. Hwy. 80.  Area is undeveloped and 50% is scrub timber.  The elevation was high enough "to prevent flooding".   The highway already had four lanes although the report states access would improve if a new bridge over the Pearl River was built.  There were no obstructions to the north and south of the proposed runway. The project would require 1,090 acres.  The land cost was only $250 per acre and $3,000 per home.

Bruce Campbell Airport: Thirteen miles north of downtown Jackson and one mile east of U.S. Hwy. 51.  The highway had four lanes.   The cost was estimated to be $400 per acre and $5,000 per home.  The site was relatively flat and approaches were unobstructed.    The site would require 1,160 acres.

Site "C": 9 miles north of Jackson and two miles northeast of Clinton.  It has access to the four lane roads of Clinton Boulevard and U.S. Hwy. 80.  The site would require 1,115 acres. The cost was estimated to be $300 per acre and $3,000 per residence.   However, part of the land was 16th Section and the cost was unknown.

Hawkins Field: There were "dense residential areas to the south and east of the field".  The orientation to take advantage of prevailing winds should be NNW-SSE.  That pattern just happened to place the approach zones over the neighborhoods.  The 5,383 runway requires an extension of 3,117 feet.  It would require the relocation of Hwy. 49 and cause other problems (see p.19 below).   The 140 acres to be acquired would cost $2,000 per acre.  Major drainage structures would have to be built for Town Creek. The commission would have to purchase both another 49 acres at a cost of $1,200 per acre and another 34 acres that costs $17,500. 

The report provided cost estimates for each site (p.24):

Site "A" (Current airport): $5,158,220
Bruce Campbell Airport: $4.934,227
Site "C": $5,103,026
Hawkins Field: $4,007,854
Hawkins Field, new runway: $4,241,770

Gotten enough data yet? Stay tuned. The report also provided the results of a survey of 1,035 passengers.  21% were from Jackson.   See page 29 of the documents posted below.  They are copies of the original documents produced in 1956.


26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff KF, keep it up!

KUDOS Kingfish said...

Jackson Jambalaya: A website of news, commentary, culture, history & jackassery in the Jackson, Mississippi area.

Anonymous said...

I saw an article in the Northside Sun that talked about another MDA tourism "cultural retail destination" being developed on airport property? It sounded very similar to the proposed Costco development in Ridgeland that has caused such heart burn. What the heck is going on here? If memory serves, the Ridgeland project would be reimbursing almost $30 million to developers in tax dollars; the airport project almost $50 million. That's a total of $80 million! Good grief! Does this have anything to do with why the state wanted to take over the airport? Does the state really have the money to give away $80 million? Why isn't any one else reporting on this proposed development that has totally excluded the city of Jackson in the deal even though we own the land? SO MANY QUESTONS AND SO FEW ANSWERS!!!!please help!

Anonymous said...

Thanks again, KF.

Am I reading correctly that Site A (now JAN) was the most expensive option?

Anonymous said...

4:44pm...they arent giving the developers $80 million. do you have any idea how this works? what is any percentage of 0? If the tax incentives aren't there, the development doesn't get built. If the development gets built, the gov gets a percentage of something that didn't exist before and wouldn't exist if they didn't give the tax breaks. The coffers will ultimately, greatly benefit. It isn't rocket science.

Anonymous said...

4:44....why in the hell do you think the Rankin people want control of the airport authority? Such projects involve millions of dollars in contracts (engineers, lawyers, accountants, consultants, etc). We can't have that going to people in Jackson! We gotta pay our own!

Anonymous said...

Just keep reminding your self, follow the money.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely understand how it works and so does the legislature, who decided to terminate this give away program by no longer allowing the MDA to accept applications after June 30, 2014. Do you think maybe they saw that the cost outweighed the benefit the taxpayers would receive? If it's such a great deal, why did both republicans and democrats vote to terminate it after only one year? It was already slated to sunset in 2017. If it is such a money maker for the state, what was the rush to end it? Sometimes things that look good on paper simply don't prove to be so in real life and this is a perfect example.

Regardless, even if you are right, the law-making branch of our state government has voted to stop this program. My question is, why is the MDA even considering jumping through all the required hoops to pull this project off (COMPLETLEY DIFFERENT location on application; approved application PRIOR to city approval even though city approval is a requirement, etc. etc, etc.). It is NOT the job of the hired employees at MDA to look for ways to circumvent the laws passed by our ELECTED officials, who voted to terminate this give away program. If the application is not correct then the development doesn't happen; you don't get to change it after the fact!

Anonymous said...

5:23's got it right. Rankin County is in control of Mississippi Government.

Anonymous said...

Tuesday night survey: Site acquisition in 1956 was estimated to be $5.1MM (approx. $45MM in today's dollars). In 1956, it took 28 pages to report the crucial data in the study of FIVE possible sites. Question: How many pages would that report have been if the same decision was being made in 2016?

Takin' A Break, Boss... said...

Briarwood Wine and Spirits has a really cool neon sign logo.

Life long Jacksonian, now a refuge in Madison. said...

The first sentence of the introduction is alien to present day Jacksonians. "In preparation of a master airport plan for a "growing city.'" Growing city? What city do you speak of pray tell?

Anonymous said...

@8:05

Today's study would include an evaluation of wetlands, endangered species, enironmental liability, etc.

Essentially, it would be the same that Warnock did for Madison County last year.

Anonymous said...

@4:47 - No you aren't reading it correctly. There is a price for Hawkins Field then just below it is the price for the runway extension. Comes out to over $8M.

Kingfish said...

There is more to the reports. I'm picking out the parts that are relevant and give you a snapshot of the process back then. There were plenty more reports and papers I could post. There is one going up later today that is pretty interesting and another batch going up tomorrow. However, the environmental reports aren't as thorough as they are now.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this.

Now if you could get an oral report from someone still alive who could put a narrative with these papers. We all know it had nothing to do with money and everything to do with politics to get it where it went.

The Clinton site was used as bait to lure people to Vicksburg to work....economic development and progress....and then nothing.

Kingfish said...

Keep in mind the Rankin site was the closest one to downtown Jackson. It didn't impede growth nor did it have obstructions to the approaches. The cost per home and acre was also the cheapest.

Gene McGee and Mary Hawkins Butler should be kissing the headstones at the graves of these guys who chose Rankin County as the airport would have really affected the growth of those two cities.

Anonymous said...

The first sentence of the introduction is alien to present day Jacksonians. "In preparation of a master airport plan for a "growing city.'" Growing city? What city do you speak of pray tell?

Jackghanistan's population peaked in 1976 primarily the result of annexations. Has been declining ever since.

Anonymous said...

KF at 7:58 AM

Don't be naïve. The land belonged to someone connected politically. There was zero transparency back then and it was all about who was in charge.

Go find someone and the picture will be much different than what is on paper.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! Do you have maps for us graphically inclined people?

Son of an Old Man said...

The offer still stands from your last "Airport" article Kingfish. If you want an oral history on the Jackson International Airport I can put you in touch with the Project Engineer that was employed by Michael Baker and on the ground while it was being constructed. I've heard those stories almost as many times as the Bilbo for Governor stories.

Kingfish said...

Sure. kingfish1935@gmail.com. Would love to talk to him.

Bear Bryant's Ghost said...

Wrong, 9:21. Transparency back then wasn't the issue it is today. Everybody knew who the governor was and everybody knew the governor owned the land and everybody knew the land was sold by the governor. It just wasn't as all fired important back then and certainly not actionable or newsworthy.

Sorta like football coaches buying mobile homes and tickets for parents and putting players in cars. Typical and routine.

Anonymous said...

Damn there are some stupid people here. Ross Barnett wasn't the Governor until the 1959 election This study was done in 1956 if I remember reading it correctly and at that time Barnett was a little ole' country lawyer in Standing Pine (Leake County). So - don't think his being the Governor had anything to do with their selecting this site. Sorry for having to throw details into all these wonderful theories about corruption but those damn pesky facts do tend to get into the way.

Roll With Ross said...

12:57; Ah, Barnett wasn't governor, actually, until 1960. He was governor when his land was sold to the people who developed the airport. Sorry to clutter up your pesky details with facts. The study and the land acquisition were two different things. But you probably knew that, as pesky as you are about details.

Anonymous said...

12:57 here. Go back and read my comments again. I said 'the 1959 election'. Would mean elected in 1959 and take office in January 1960. The report that recommended placing the airport at this spot was done in 1956 so recommending the land purchase had nothing to do with Barnett being Governor as the idiot said earlier.

And yes - pesky little details do get in the way of a good story. Sorry but I like history and facts better than bitchy novels.

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