Source: Jackson Jambalaya
Long-ignored but still standing is Hawkins Field. The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority hired Sam Carver in September to manage the airport. He is the first manager of the general aviation airport that has been employed since 2009. Better days may be ahead for Hawkins Field. The new manager is whipping the airport into shape and working to make it one of the top general aviation airports in the South.
Mr. Carver said Hawkins Field enjoys several advantages that are the envy of many general aviation airports. The airport has a control tower, instrument landing system (ILS), a main runway that is 5,387 feet long, and an alternate runway. Hawkins Field can handle G5 aircraft. It can handle 95% of all general aviation aircraft.
A general aviation airport is not a commercial airport. There are no airlines or scheduled passengers. It is used by private pilots, medical transports, cargo flights, and corporations such as Entergy and Nissan. The airport has 32,000 operations a year. Hawkins Field is home to 85 aircraft but he has a goal of 200 aircraft. The airport has 18 corporate hangers that are leased to fixed-base operators. Mr. Carver said Hawkins Field should be the “front door for business traffic”. He said “What is good for Hawkins Field is also good for Jackson.”
The main runway is in great shape but the alternate runway shows heavy use of crack of crack sealer that gives a somewhat bumpy ride as one drives down the runway. Mr. Carver said the facilities are “a bit outdated”. The ramp had no markings when he began his tenure but that has been corrected (see picture below). Grass grows through joints by the runways (Mr. Carver said that is not acceptable at other airports.).
Mr. Carver said he has plans to improve the airport and make it a much more useful asset to Jackson. He said “the field hasn’t quite gotten the attention it needs. The airfield and facilities are a bit outdated. My job is to rectify that. First, I’m focusing on operations, safety, and compliance that need to be improved such as runway markings, pavement, and condition of the runway. Before I can start selling it, I have to make it something I can sell.” He said the control tower is in good shape and Congress continued its funding for another year.
He said he has three major goals for Hawkins Field:
1. Rehab runway #1129 (alternate runway). The project starts soon and will cost $1.5 million.
2. Rehab the south ramp and old terminal (picture posted below) for fixed-base operators. The cost will be $500,000. The exterior has been renovated.
3. Improve the main runway (#1634) with federal funding. The cost will be between $2 million and $4 million.
Mr. Carver said he would seek federal funding for all three projects. He said he would like to move the entrance to Hawkins Field near a completely renovated south terminal. The exterior has been renovated but the interior is completely gutted. He said it was better suited for transient travelers as they have a certain expectancy. The building is a better location and has more potential than the current terminal. He said “there is nothing we have on this side of the field that can be a first-class FBO.” A cafe is on the list of potential improvements for the terminal as well. He said he has been studying top FBO airports around the country such as Meridian,
Hawkins Field has a great deal of history. Mr. Carver said he would like to create an aviation museum at the airport one day. He said Delta Airlines made its first-ever flight to Hawkins Field in 1929. The Dutch sent pilots to train for years at Hawkins Field. He said such a museum will draw people.
Sam Carver grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and has spent twenty years in the aviation industry. He graduated from Delta State University in 1994 with a degree in airport management. He was operations supervisor at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. He was Airside Supervisor at Fort Lauderdale International Airport and then moved to the Tallahassee Regional Airport. He also worked at the Slidell Regional Airport and Clemson airport as an airport manager. He said he wanted to return home when the job became open. The previous manager was Albert Beamon. He served from 2004 to 2009.