By Tim Gardner
The Avery County Morrison Airport has received state and federal funding in the amount of $1,549,750.00 for Runway Rehabilitation. The current runway is 3001 feet by 60 feet and has overruns of 120 foot on its South end and 170 feet on its North end. But it does not meet the specifications of the State of North Carolina for airport runways. As a result, the Airport Authority applied for, and received, state and federal grants for a complete runway overhaul, to include all new stone, compaction, and four inch asphalt.
According to Avery County Airport Authority Chairman Sam Calvert of Newland, the runway can “accommodate bigger planes if it is extended to 4,300 feet, which also would be favorable for bringing more business to the tri-counties of Avery, Mitchell and Yancey.” The project is underway and should be completed in the new few days with a re-opening date of December 15. After these renovations are completed, the airport will meet all specifications.
The Avery County Morrison Airport, located 16 miles Southwest of Newland was founded as a small private grass field by local business men in the 1950’s on land donated by the Morrison family. After work was started on the airport, a discussion was held with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to determine if the FAA would be willing to fund the airport.
The FAA agreed to fund the airport if it was transferred to a municipality. The airport was given to Avery and Mitchell counties and the FAA finished the airport as a public use airport. Until the late 1980’s, the airport upkeep was entirely funded by the users, primarily Brad Ragan Inc. and Feldspar Corporation.
Calvert said the major highlight of the Avery County Morrison Airport’s history was when former United States President Gerald R. Ford spoke to a massive, public gathering there in1976 during his re-election campaign.
In the 1990’s, the Avery County Airport Authority was formed by the North Carolina legislature. Avery and Mitchell counties began to provide funding for the airport. In the last few years the airport authority has obtained multiple grants for improvements.