Tullahoma, Tenn., airport is target of $2 million upgrade

Tullahoma, Tenn., airport is target of $2 million upgrade

May 14th, 2014 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

The Tullahoma Regional Airport in Coffee County, Tenn., will get $2 million in improvements starting this September. The area where most improvements will be made is to the left of the runways in the photo.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Site for improvements to Tullahoma Regional Airport.

Site for improvements to Tullahoma Regional Airport.

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

The Tullahoma Regional Airport in Coffee County, Tenn., will see $2 million in improvement projects launched by the end of summer.

"We've got a bunch of concrete improvements, taxiway lighting, some drainage projects and then a new ramp expansion project and a maintenance hangar," airport manager Jon Glass said. "Basically, we're out of hangar space," he said.

The projects, comprising six separate grants, are being bid together to allow prospective contractors to consider multiple projects on one site, he said. Bidding should be done by July with construction starting around Sept. 1.

Included in the project is work on a 74-year-old concrete runway and taxiway.

"We're going to go in and rehab those," he said.

The Tullahoma Regional Airport, originally built in 1942, has one 5,500-foot-long runway, another 4,200-foot-long runway and a grass runway that's 2,700 feet long. The airport has undergone several improvements in recent years, including a new terminal building, a $4.3 million paving project and 19 new hangars completed in 2008, and four more in 2010.

The airport serves as home to about 145 aircraft, including everything from ultralights and gliders to cargo planes and corporate jets. The airport also is home to a skydiving operation and one of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Lifeflight medical helicopters.

Airport board chairwoman and pilot Sharon Tinkler is excited about the drainage work on the facility's two grass runways, which make the airport unique to antique aircraft and classic aircraft enthusiasts.

"Tail-draggers" -- planes with a tail wheel -- seek out grass runways, and Tullahoma's pair of grass strips stand out because they allow two angles of approach to compensate for wind direction, said Tinkler, who owns and flies a tail-dragging 1948 Luscombe airplane.

Antique airshow traffic traveling cross-country to big fly-ins at airports in Oshkosh, Wis., Lakeland, Fla., and Ottumwa, Iowa, happily will make a stop in Tullahoma, she said.

"They will fall all over themselves to get to these grass runways," Tinkler said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.