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Rocky Mount-Wilson airport reopens after $8 million upgrade

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ELM CITY — The Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport reopened Monday with a smooth landing by its biggest customer.

Cummins Diesel’s Embraer regional jet landed at 7:52 a.m. with 27 passengers from Cummins Diesel USA headquarters in Columbus, Indiana.

“It happens to be the critical aircraft for the airport for our design team, and for this airplane to be arriving first is pretty awesome,” said Dion Viventi, managing director for the airport.

“We have been closed for a little over three months now waiting for Phase 1 and 2 of the construction project so that we can open up for operations,” Viventi said. “I am very happy to be back in business.”

The airport has spent a little more than $8 million on the renovation and repair of its main runway and associated taxiways.

“We have done all of the inspections. The pavement project has passed with flying colors, so we are very pleased with the quality of the workmanship that has been done,” Viventi said. “All of the lighting is up and working.”

Viventi said the Cummins Embraer ERJ-135LR has more than 250 operations annually at the airport.

“The airport has been upgraded and designed to meet the needs of the this critical aircraft,” Viventi said. “It is the largest aircraft with the most operations.”

Viventi said the airport’s runway, measuring 7,100 feet long and 150 feet wide, is more than ample to meet the needs of this type of aircraft.

Other phases of airport improvements include the addition of 23 hangars and construction of more fuel farms at the site.

Viventi said the remainder of the taxiway system, the rest of the perimeter road and the airport’s drainage improvements should be completed by December.

The Cummins jet was ferrying personnel to the two Cummins Diesel facilities on U.S. 301 between Rocky Mount and Whitakers.

Garry Hodges, a member of the airport authority, said Cummins is expected to double or triple its freight traffic out of the airport in the coming years. The airport had 30,000 operations last year.

Hodges said the airport is strategically well-positioned and its future expansion will be “exponential.”

“I’m excited about the growth that’s going to be happening in the next five to 10 years,” Hodges said.