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Middlesboro-Bell Airport celebrates second floor expansion

The Middlesboro Airport celebrated an important milestone Wednesday with the unveiling of the second floor expansion.

The Bell County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the dedication of the project that has taken almost 10 years to complete.

“Today’s celebration is the unveiling of our second floor expansion project which has been in the works for about 10 years or so,” Secretary of the Middlesboro Airport Board Glynna Brown said. “We have received funding from the Kentucky Department of Aviation to finish this upstairs.”

The upstairs has a lobby, office, conference room, a pilots resting room, full restroom with shower and a full kitchenette for traveling pilots.

“I think it’s an enhancement for the airport,” Chairman of the Middlesboro Airport Board Kirby Smith said. “We get a lot of people from out of town that come here, and when they land here the first thing they see is the airport. We want to make a good impression on these people.”

Smith explained that many pilots bring business people into town and some are visiting.

“When pilots travel in here and get weathered in and they don’t have the transportation and need a place that they can stay, that’s why we have a pilots resting room so they can rest up,” he explained. “The commercial pilots come in and they are waiting on their business people that they brought in, and in that case they need a place just to sit around and maybe watch TV and have a snack.”

He explained they are offering all these amenities to promote Middlesboro and hopefully bring in more business and industry.

“It enhances the airport, and we hope to get more air traffic as a result,” he said.

A centennial celebration was held in 2012 in honor of the first flight in Middlesboro that occurred in 1912.

Brown explained that the airport received money to fix the downstairs, and then they received funds to complete the upstairs.

“We just want to make sure that the community understands that the airport is here for two things, well, several things actually — first being economic development,” she explained. “We have businesses that fly in and out of here all the time, and we’ve got 30 businesses that are transients plus regular businesses that are here.”

She continued to explain that there are people that fly in solely to visit the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. She said some of the pilots that are there need transportation, and there is a crew car that is provided. If they need to stay overnight, they recommend one of the local motels in Middlesboro to support economic development.

Representatives with the Kentucky Department of Aviation were at the event to help celebrate and dedicate the second floor. Members from the Middlesboro City Council, Mayor Rick Nelson and community were also there to celebrate this milestone.