Mississippi's Trent Lott Int'l Airport Traffic Jumps

Air traffic at Trent Lott International Airport increased immediately after Hurricane Katrina and has remained higher than normal, according to Carol Snapp, the airport's executive director.

"Our traffic increased significantly after Katrina because the other airports were affected," she said. "We had a lot of supplies come in and FEMA. It is not at that level, but we are still at a higher level than were pre-Hurricane Katrina."

Traffic was more than double during September, said Snapp. "We are, right now, at approximately 100 arrivals and departures a day."

She said the airport had minimum damage and opened the day after Katrina made landfall. Two large hangars had significant damage, and the lease on one was canceled until doors and siding can be replaced and electrical work inspected.

While some hangars lost siding, others fared well and are available for use. Security cameras and parking lot lights also were damaged. Repairs are expected to cost about $250,000.

"We are hoping to get those repaired as soon as possible," she said. "We are anticipating a hurricane grant from the FAA."

No damage was reported to the 6,500-foot runway that was rehabilitated for $1.7 million. Mobile Asphalt has completed the work, but it won't be official until after an inspection in January.

The airport had been set to bring the new $2.1 million traffic control tower online and did so Oct. 27. The airport is looking to hire a third air controller.

"The tower is the No. 1 one safety tool for any airport," Snapp said. "More people want to fly here with the tower operational."

She believes that is partly why traffic has remained higher than usual, and said there are rush hours when the terminal is overflowing.

"We really need a new terminal, because with the traffic and increased volume we need more space for passenger seating," Snapp said. "Somewhere down the road we hope we get the funding. Right now, we are looking at modifying the current terminal."

That would mean enlarging the present floor space and adding two floors for more office space and a conference room. More parking also is needed.

"It's a good sign. It means we are growing," she said. "We are happy about that."

Biloxi Sun Herald

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