Blytheville — Today, Representative Rick Crawford (AR-01) visited the Blytheville-Gosnell Regional Airport to meet with board members.
The airport is a former Cold War air force base and home to the largest runway in Arkansas, which measures 11,600 feet long. Since the airport is so large, it is able to accommodate National Guard operations and larger planes needed for military training operations. It also has partnerships with private companies as well. However, the airport has been in a back and forth with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over help with funding for maintenance of the runway.
“My biggest concern would be losing our appeal to businesses in the area or being forced to remove runway length,” said Billy Curl, a member on both the airport and Cold War center boards.
Without funding from the FAA, the airport would be forced to make the decision to either shorten the runway or pay out of pocket to maintain the record long concrete path. Both options would be very costly and could hinder the operations of the airport.
“Most recently, the FAA has said that we won’t need to shorten the runway but we are going to designate the number of 7,500 feet and they will fund that portion. This is an agreement that we can live with but we also haven’t seen anything in writing,” said Barrett Harrison, the airport president.
“The FAA has been occupied conducting an investigation into their recent system failure which may delay a resolution to this. If you feel like it’s not being resolved in a suitable timeframe please let me know and keep me updated,” Crawford told officials.
Another topic that came up was the National Cold War Center, which is a museum also located in a portion of the Blytheville-Gosnell airport that was once a facility used by the Eaker Air Force Base for Cold War operations. The museum has been trying to get federal designation as the National Cold War Center. Rep. Crawford introduced legislation last congress which would get them the title if passed but the bill has not come up for a vote on the House floor.
“The designation would really give the work we do at the museum more credibility,” said Harrison.
The Eaker base was created in 1942 as a World War II training center but later became an alert center in the middle of the Cold War. It became inactive in 1991 and opened as a museum. The museum focuses on the 45 years in American history where nuclear threats were real and teams needed to be able to respond quickly.
“As a Cold War veteran I can say it was a pivotal time in American history where the threats were tremendous but we were all equally united in calling out our enemies. It’s vital that we keep alive the memory of those who were prepared to fight against the expansion of communism and lived under constant threat of nuclear obliteration,” added Crawford.
Crawford represents the First District of Arkansas, which runs from Searcy County through Mississippi County as well as down the eastern part of the state. He is a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee and has served in the U.S House since 2011.
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