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It's been 20 years, but could commercial airline service be returning to Meacham Airport?

Meacham Airport opens new administration building

The city of Fort Worth spent $20 million renovating the 1968 terminal and administration building at Meacham Airport. (January 24, 2017) Video by Andrea Ahles and photos by Max Faulkner. Timelapse video provided by American Aero.
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The city of Fort Worth spent $20 million renovating the 1968 terminal and administration building at Meacham Airport. (January 24, 2017) Video by Andrea Ahles and photos by Max Faulkner. Timelapse video provided by American Aero.

Fort Worth's Meacham International Airport, off Main Street about five miles north of downtown, is said to be in the running for a new passenger airline being considered by the founder of the low-cost carrier JetBlue.

According to Airline Weekly and Forbes, David Neeleman, who started JetBlue in 2000, is looking to raise $100 million to start Moxy Airways and Fort Worth's Meacham Airport, Hollywood Burbank Airport and T.F. Green Airport in Providence, RI, are among the potential airports to get the service beginning in 2020.

Neeleman, who left JetBlue in 2007 as its CEO, did not speak to either publication.

Neeleman was also involved in Morris Air, WestJet Airlines in Canada and Brazil’s Azul SA. Airfinance Journal also reported that Neeleman has secured orders for 60 CS300 aircraft from Canada’s Bombardier Inc. The planes can seat 100 and 150 passengers.

The last commercial passenger airline at Meacham was Mesa Airlines, which operated there for about 10 months between 1997-98.

Bill Welstead, Fort Worth's aviation director, said Thursday he has not heard of the possible new venture, nor has he been contacted by anyone associated with it. But while Welstead said commercial passenger service will likely return to Meacham at some point, Moxy may have to stand in line.

For the past couple of years, Welstead said he's been talking with Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines, which want to start scheduled passenger service at Meacham. Meacham currently has corporate and commuter flights and houses about 425 airplanes.

"We still talk to both companies actively," Welstead said. "Frontier is expressing the most interest. They would love to start service immediately."

Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, which Fort Worth owns with Dallas, handles the bulk of the area's passenger service, with more than 1,800 daily flights. Welstead said that as Fort Worth continues to grow — it's now the nation's 15th largest city — and particularly west Fort Worth, getting to DFW is going to get harder and take longer.

"West Fort Worth is going to explode," Welstead said. "The airlines are looking at the same data."

Welstead said Meacham has some logistic challenges to operate a commercial airline at this time, with the biggest barrier being able to align parking and passenger travel with a terminal. And until the city has the population to support commercial travel from there, Fort Worth won't be putting money toward those efforts any time soon, he said.

There are some things in Meacham's favor, though.

Fort Worth, which has spent millions of dollars in the past couple of years repairing and expanding taxiways and other improvements, is about to embark on a $12 million redevelopment of 24 acres in the middle of the airport that's expected to add room for 150 additional aircraft and building space. That project is expected to be completed in 2021.

Moreover, Meacham is set up as a general aviation airport, but it is regulated and managed as if it has commercial air service, Welstead said. Meacham has increased it operations by 90 percent in the past six years, he said.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines got its start at Meacham in the early 1930's. By 1953, commercial flights moved to Amon Carter Field, which became the Great Southwest International Airport, and was generally just south of where DFW is now located.

Named for the late Mayor Henry Clay Meacham, Fort Worth has owned the airport since 1925.

Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST
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