Matt Busse Cardinal News
$20 million expansion of Blue Ridge Regional Airport continues, with a longer runway and new terminal still to come
October 16, 2023
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  • A small airport in Henry County is getting some big upgrades.

    Over the next few years, Blue Ridge Regional Airport will extend its runway by 1,000 feet and build a new, 8,000-square-foot terminal as part of more than $20 million in upgrades.

    The runway will allow the airport to accommodate larger airplanes and a higher volume of traffic, while the larger terminal will provide a more modern look for what can be a visitor’s first impression of the region, said Jason Davis, the airport’s managing director.

    “That’s really going to make our window to the community much bigger, much more capable,” Davis said.

    The general aviation airport sees an average of 24,000 people each year, with an average of 33 airplanes performing 66 takeoffs and landings each day, Davis said.

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    The airport is owned by the Blue Ridge Airport Authority, whose members come from Martinsville, Henry County and Patrick County. Its services include fuel, aircraft maintenance and aircraft hangar and parking space. Two medical rescue helicopter services — AirCare and AirLife — operate out of the airport.

    Two of the Blue Ridge Regional Airport’s biggest draws are the Martinsville Speedway, a NASCAR track just south of the city of Martinsville in Henry County, and the Primland Resort, a 12,000-acre corporate retreat and outdoor-activities destination in Patrick County. Davis said on average, about two-thirds of the corporate jets that arrive at the airport are serving Primland. 

    Making the runway longer — 6,000 feet, up from about 5,000 — means larger jets could land at the Henry County airport instead of going to the next-closest airports in Roanoke or Greensboro.

    Besides accommodating existing clientele, it also means potentially more economic prospects coming to the region — business executives looking for a site to set up shop won’t visit a region if the local airport can’t handle their planes, Davis said.

    The first phase of the airport’s five-phase project was building about 3,800 new feet of Airport Road, which runs by Blue Ridge Regional Airport, near U.S. 58 in Spencer.

    The second phase involved building a new apron, which is essentially a parking lot for airplanes. The new space can accommodate 25 to 30 jets depending on their size, Davis said, whereas the previous apron was limited to about 12.

    “We had a Dollar General parking lot for a Walmart,” he said.

    Those first two phases were completed late last year.

    The third phase starts Monday: The western portion of Airport Road will be shifted to get it out of the way of the extended runway. That work will take about a year, Davis said, and once the road is finished, it will be turned over to the Virginia Department of Transportation to manage.

    The fourth phase will extend the runway, making Blue Ridge Regional Airport one of only three non-carrier airports in Virginia with a 6,000-foot runway, according to Davis.

    The final phase of the expansion will see the construction of a new terminal that will be approximately double the size of the existing building. Photo by Matt Busse.

    Finally, in the fifth phase, the new terminal will be built, which Davis called “the cherry on top” of the whole project. It will be approximately double the size of the existing circa-1987 terminal and will feature a pilot’s lounge, a conference room and the new home of the airport’s current restaurant, Simply Suzanne’s Cafe.

    The building will have a more modern look while referencing key aspects of the area’s history and economy. For example, one wall will be dedicated to the Martinsville Speedway.

    “It just makes sense to mirror the community that we serve,” Davis said.

    The entire Blue Ridge Regional Airport upgrade project is expected to be complete in mid-2026, Davis said.

    The runway will cost $12 million to $13 million, while the terminal will cost $4 million to $5 million. The construction and relocation work for Airport Road has a budget of about $5 million, Davis said.

    The terminal likely will be paid for with approximately half state funding and half local. The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included a new program with billions of dollars to replace airport terminals around the country; the Blue Ridge Regional Airport has applied for such funding but Davis has not heard that it has received an award.

    The road and runway will be 90% federally funded. In a July news release announcing a round of federal money to Virginia airports that included $4.7 million for the Blue Ridge Regional Airport, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said local airports are “crucial” for travel to, from and throughout Virginia.

    “We’re glad to see this funding continue to support investments at airports across the Commonwealth that will improve safety and efficiency for travelers,” the two Democratic senators said in their joint statement.

    The Blue Ridge Regional Airport was one of three airports highlighted in a 2018 study as examples of the economic impact of Virginia’s 66 public-use airports. 

    The study, produced by the Virginia Department of Aviation, noted the airport’s importance to the speedway and Primland Resort and said it provides “critical air transport infrastructure, supporting local, regional and national businesses and creating much needed economic impact.”