City in the running for regional landing

Published 6:10 pm Wednesday, December 31, 2008

LINDEN – Officials have kept the Linden airport closed while they consider what to do about its future, but some planes are still using the runway.

According to Linden City Administrator Cheryl Hall, there are a few aircraft that use the airstrip for agricultural spraying.

“These are the only planes allowed to use the runway and they have to get a permit from city hall,” said Hall.

Meanwhile Linden is one of four Black Belt cities being considered for the location of a new regional airport.

Scott Lynn – who has been representing Linden in planning meetings with the Alabama Bureau of Aeronautics – and representatives of the other cities being considered, reported to the Linden City Council recently on the chances Linden has in securing the airport.

Lynn told the council that the goal would be to have the facility centrally placed so the participating cities would be within a 30-mile drive. It will include a 5000-foot runway with fuel and support facilities.

The cities under consideration each have an existing airstrip.

Linden’s Freddie Jones Field, built in 1966, has been closed since 2000 and in desperate need of repairs, including a complete asphalt overlay. Grove Hill and Pine Hill each have small airstrips. Butler has a well-maintained airport that is in regular use.

Linden’s airport is still used occasionally, especially during the winter and early spring months when spraying is needed for crops and tree farms.

“Because the airport is officially closed, they use the runway at their own risk,” said Hall. “They must also get permission from the city and are charged a fee for its use.”

Lynn told the board they could continue to participate in the planning process and decide later if they wanted to financially support a regional airport, wherever it was placed. They could also begin the strategic planning process of making the repairs to the Freddie Jones Field in hopes of getting a new license and seek grants and other sources of funding to make additional improvements.

They could also opt to permanently close the airstrip, abandon the chances of reopening it and use the airport at Demopolis.

The city council has not made a decision yet concerning the airport’s future, but is expected to address the issue early this year.