The long-awaited extension of two runways at Alliance Airport is now complete, clearing the way for the north Fort Worth's privately-run cargo airfield to expand its services to include companies wishing to ship freight as far away as Europe.
The airport was already a major regional hub for FedEx and other companies.
But now the extension of the runways to 11,000 feet makes it possible for Alliance Airport to accommodate any overseas expansion plans those companies have and also attract new cargo firms — and jobs to north Fort Worth — said Tom Harris, president of Alliance Air Services.
"On a hot summer day when it's 98 degrees, an aircraft fully loaded with fuel and cargo takes longer to get off the ground," Harris said. "You need a longer runway to allow for that to happen. For a wide-body aircraft, with 11,000 feet, air freight airlines can now fly from Alliance nonstop to Europe, whereas before they would have had to fly somewhere along the East Coast, perhaps to Bangor, Maine, to stop for fuel, which is something the airlines don't like to do."
The extension of runways 16R/34L and 16L/34R — which were previously 8,200 and 9,600 feet long, respectively — as well as Taxiway A at the north end of the airfield took more than two decades of planning and about $260 million worth of construction.
It required relocating several miles of Farm Road 156 to make room for the runways. A section of railroad main line track belonging to Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway also had to be relocated to make room for the airfield improvements.
Alliance Airport, which is billed as the world's first purely industrial airport, was developed by Hillwood and opened in 1989.
Hillwood chairman Ross Perot Jr. this week described the runway extension as "another major milestone for AllianceTexas.”
Alliance Airport is part of AllianceTexas, a 26,000-acre master-planned community that includes several miles of residential, retail and commercial development, much of it along the Interstate 35W corridor. It includes the Alliance Town Center and Circle T Ranch developments.
"With the completion of the extended runway, Fort Worth Alliance Airport is better positioned to serve the needs of our customers today and long into the future,” Perot said.
AllianceTexas has created 48,800 jobs and has more than 2.6 million square feet of retail, restaurant, medical and entertainment space as well as single-family and high-end apartments. The development has generated more than $69 billion in economic impact for the North Texas region, Hillwood officials say.
Construction on the runway extension actually began in 2003, when the area north of the airfield was leveled and filled with more than 4 million cubic yards of dirt.
But the actual laying of new pavement began in 2015. The work was substantially completed last month.
The project involved the Federal Aviation Administration, Texas Department of Transportation, Tarrant County and Fort Worth. Virginia-based Lane Construction was the general contractor.
AllianceTexas is the nucleus of job and residential growth in north Fort Worth. In all, there are 488 companies and 48,800 jobs within the master-planned community's boundaries, officials said.
Companies use the airport for corporate general aviation and global logistics services, aviation manufacturing, maintenance, training and workforce development.
At times, especially during race weekends at nearby Texas Motor Speedway, it's not uncommon for hundreds of travelers to arrive and depart at Alliance Airport through its general aviation and corporate services area. However, there are no immediate plans to offer regularly scheduled passenger service at Alliance Airport anytime soon, Harris said.
"I'm one of those guys who never says never, but it's just not something we're focused on," Harris said. "We are focused on all the other things out there, (including) general aviation, business aviation, helping our military."