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.
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.