“A new level of opportunity;” Big changes coming soon to OAJ Airport

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The Albert J Ellis Airport is going to see some big changes soon. officials announced Monday morning more details about the runway extension project. 

The 29-million-dollar investment was just adopted in the state budget. This new extension project will allow for larger and heavier aircraft to land at the airport. This means the project has the potential to promote new business, jobs, and other economic development for the county. 

“The size of the planes the ability for businesses to grow and expand the ability for our airport to receive cargo FedEx planes is a new level of opportunity. And I’m extremely delighted to be part of it,” said State Sen. Michael Lazzara. 

Sen. Lazzara and Representative Phil Shephard were both at the announcement. Both worked to secure the grant for the airport. 

“This is a plus for Onslow County, a plus for the people here and I look forward to what the future is going to bring,” said Rep. Shephard. 

The last extension of the 50-year-old airport was in 1975. The project has been in the works for more than 20 years. It will increase the potential for more direct flights and possibly bring a mail hub for FedEx or UPS. 

Vice-Chairman of the Onslow County Board of Commissioners, Tim Foster, explains more about what this means for the community. 

“We already have the United States Marine Corps where their Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the river air station that frequents the doors of Albert J. Ellis and flies throughout this nation and their families coming in to see and visit and spend time with them. We’re going to become more than that,” said Foster. 

The airport has an annual count of more than 326,000 passengers per year. OAJ’s director, Chris White, tells 9OYS that in October the airport set a record for the number of passengers flying through. 

“We’re recovering significantly from the pandemic. And we’re seeing large growth if you know Onslow County grew 15% in the population over that time, and the population or the frequency of passengers, so the number of pastures has also grown faster than that,” said White.  

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