‘It grows the local economy’: Albert J. Ellis Airport awarded millions in grant funding

ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – An Eastern Carolina airport has received nearly $11 million from federal and state sources that will go towards improvements.

According to county leaders, the Onslow County Board of Commissioners accepted a Federal Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Program grant totaling $8,420,073 for Albert Ellis Airport.

They say the airport will use the money for a runway rehabilitation project. The runway is anywhere between 9 to 12 inches thick and grooved for water drainage.

The state has also allocated $2,462,397 in the recent state budget for additional airport improvements at OAJ. This funding will fuel future hanger development, updated navigational aids, and new and upgraded facilities.

Kathy Cotney traveled through the airport from Atlanta on Tuesday. She says the airport is “just like a road, you got to keep it up.”

Cotney says small airports like Albert J. Ellis are key to the economy.

“Atlanta used to have a relatively small airport and it made me realize that once an airport gets bigger, which Atlanta did, it makes a huge difference, it supports, it grows the local economy. It brings people to move to your area,” Cotney said. “It is just key in today’s world to get in and out from your location to other places in the world.”

Airport Director Chris White says passengers should not be concerned or affected by the construction of the new runway, saying the updates are a crucial part of maintaining commercial airlines standards.

“We have lots of projects going on at the airport. We saw we opened in 1971 and have been under construction since,” White said. “It’s very true that airports are constantly evolving and it’s a very exciting environment to work in.”

Officials say recent grants combined with last year’s approved state funding are designed to boost the quality of life and benefit economic development efforts in Onslow County.

The runway construction is set to start in the spring and is expected to be completed by the summer.

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