Longer runways at Fort Worth Alliance Airport could make the nearby FedEx hub a bigger player on the world stage, according to a Hillwood official.
“It could,” said Tom Harris, president of Alliance Air-Aviation Services at Hillwood, the developer of Alliance Airport, which launched the AllianceTexas development in 1989.
Harris’ comment came Oct. 27 at the 35W Coalition’s quarterly meeting in a far north Fort Worth hotel ballroom, where a guest asked whether the $250 million runway expansion project could make the FedEx facility a larger operation. It currently ranks third, behind the delivery-services firm’s operations in Memphis, Tennessee, and Indianapolis.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever compete with Memphis, but they have some limitations,” said Harris, referring to limited land for expansion.
Work began in October to extend Alliance’s parallel runways from 9,600 feet to 11,000 feet and the project is expected to be finished in early 2018, allowing FedEx to offer direct air cargo service to Europe and Asia. That’s because longer runways give aircraft better aerodynamic conditions for takeoff and landing during hot summer months, said Harris. He emphasized that the airport already can accommodate aircraft of any size.
The runway extension project required three actions: relocating part of State Highway 156 and moving part of BNSF railroad track, both of which have been completed, and raising the grade elevation around the runways.
Funding the $250 million project are the Federal Aviation Administration airport improvement program, the city of Fort Worth and the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
“They advanced us some RTC [Regional Transportation Council] funding to get it done quicker,” Harris said.
Construction will not affect daily airport operations, Harris said.
Meanwhile, the former American Airlines maintenance base that GDC Technics of San Antonio leased earlier this year will be in operation by the end of this year or early 2016, Harris reported. The company modifies aircraft for heads of state, VIPs and the military.
“If you’re the prince of Saudi Arabia and you want to spend $500 million on a new 787 Dreamliner … this is what these guys do,” Harris said.
The company leased 840,000 square feet of hangar and warehouse space and plans to add as many as 600 workers within five years.
“These guys are back-ordered to 2026, so they’re going to be busy for a while,” Harris said.
In other business, Harris remains upbeat about finding a user for the plant formerly used by Rolls Royce and American Airlines to maintain and repair some Rolls Royce engines used on the airline’s jets. The companies in September announced plans to shut down the plant and shift work to other locations, citing falling demand for the work.
“I will say the facility is going to be easy to market. Companies will want to use it. We’re fairly optimistic,” Harris said.