DeWitt Spain Is Selected Tennessee Airport of the Year
General DeWitt Spain Airport has been selected 2012 Airport of the Year by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Aeronautics Division. Dewitt Spain is one of more than 70 general aviation airports in the state and one of two operated by the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.
Generally, the selection criteria is the airport that most demonstrated in the past year a long-term commitment to its operation, appearance, maintenance and level of service by hosting a significant event or completing a big renovation or other similar activity. This year, the selection took a slightly different turn. General Dewitt Spain Airport was chosen for weathering a natural disaster - the historic 2011 Mississippi River flood, which submerged the airport under more than eight feet of water, inundating hangars, the runway and the terminal building.
Prior to the flood, extensive precautionary steps had been taken to protect the airport against the rising river predictions that threatened it. A $1.1 million project to raise the levee around the airport and build a temporary dam was accomplished quickly. Tenants, aircraft, equipment and electrical components were evacuated, and underground fuel tanks were filled to keep them in the ground. But, when the dam was breached by the "hundred year flood," the airport became submerged and there was skepticism that it would ever reopen. The water finally receded but left a mess of mud, debris and devastation.
The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority determined it was worth saving the general aviation airport, located just to the north of downtown Memphis, and spent $3.5 million to restore it to service. The airport has undergone a remarkable transformation against many odds and great obstacles, and today it is thriving and providing quality service from a new and improved facility.
Looking at the renovated facility and the devastation of the flooding is the only way to appreciate the remarkable rebirth of General DeWitt Spain Airport.