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Old Posted Jan 22, 2010, 4:42 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Memphis airport reopens repaired runway

By Wayne Risher

Memphis International Airport's east-west runway reopened a nine-month reconstruction costing about $50 million. The Airport Authority made good on a promise to reopen the runway in time for FedEx's holiday shipping season. The 8,946-foot-long strip on the northern end of the airfield had been closed since March 2009 as contractors ripped out old asphalt and replaced it with a 20-inch deep, 150-foot-wide layer of concrete. While it was out of service, planes were limited to three north-south runways.

The first plane to take off from and land on the rebuilt runway was a Beechcraft Bonanza A36, single-engine propeller-driven plane piloted by Airport Authority board member and auto dealer Jim Keras. Authority president and CEO Larry Cox and board members Jim Ethridge and Jon Thompson rode with Keras on a flight to West Memphis and back.

The airport is home to the FedEx World Hub, center of shipping network that hit last year's daily peak of 13 million packages on Dec. 14. Spokesman Jim McCluskey said FedEx representatives were on hand for the first takeoff and landing, and the company's cargo planes were expected to start using the runway again Monday night. "We're very pleased with the opening of the runway," he said. "We will begin using the runway this evening, both inbound and outbound. It will allow us to increase our arrival rate, which makes us more efficient than we already are." The runway's new concrete surface is expected to last at least 25 years and perhaps 40 to 50 years, considerably longer than asphalt.
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