Hancock County Port & Harbor Commission Seeks to Build Multi-User Aerostrip

January 31, 2020

Hancock County, MS (Jan. 31, 2020) – The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission is working toward the construction of a 4000’ x 90’ concrete runway with 500’ overruns on both sides.  The Aerostrip will be constructed West of the Stennis International Airport’s (KHSA) existing runway and is intended to serve multiple users across three major industries, including: military, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and spaceport launch and recovery operations.

Military Use

The Aerostrip will support myriad military operations to include operational readiness training requirements for locally stationed Airwings.  The needs of our local military to conduct training operations nearby requires certain conditions be met for their training operations to occur.  This includes the presence of Stennis International Airport’s (KHSA) runway with the John C. Stennis Space Center (JCSSC) Buffer Zone, which provides both acoustical & vibrational bulwark for ongoing training.  Additionally, training operations may require established drop zones, night vision goggles, as well as an established firefighting crew on hand in case of emergency – all of which Stennis International Airport (KHSA) is able to provide.

This additional runway will be constructed from concrete, which will act as a platform for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL).  VTOL requires concrete that is specially formulated to withstand high temperatures, and can bear the burden of repetitive landings, take-offs, and hover maneuvers performed by VTOL aircraft.  Over time, a runway not built with this specialized concrete will deteriorate, causing cracks and degradation leading to costly repair efforts and closures impacting the users of the additional runway.

Finally, the Multi-User Aerostrip will also act as a runway able to certify assault landings, performed by military C17 and C130 aircraft.  The assault landing maneuver requires that a pilot land in a 500-foot area on the runway, and to coast no further than 3,500 ft.  KHSA’s Multi-User Aerostrip will be built to meet these requirements and be a national asset to military units requiring these certifications, and to our local Air Force, Air Guard, and reserve units with the abovementioned aircraft.

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

The State of Mississippi is home to Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory (RFRL) which is the nation’s leading unmanned systems research, development, test & evaluation institution.  RFRL leads the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence and is the lead technology evaluator for multiple Federal agencies throughout the United States.

Port & Harbor’s Stennis International Airport (KHSA) has developed an ongoing partnership with RFRL as KHSA’s unique location next to JCSSC’s Buffer Zone allows RFRL rare access to nearby Restricted Areas, established through Space Act Agreements as well as maritime operations through authorization from the FAA.

The construction of KHSA’s Multi-User Aerostrip will allow for simultaneous, segregated UAS operations without impacting the Airport’s considerable air traffic customers.  The presence of an additional Aerostrip would enable RFRL to substantially increase UAS operations along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  This would lead to an increase in RFRL’s ability to provide additional RDT&E initiatives, as well as showcase Mississippi’s national leadership in unmanned systems technology and bring additional high-value jobs to Hancock County.

Additionally, Hancock County’s Pearl River Community College (PRCC) campus offers a degree program training local students in the area of Unmanned Systems.  PRCC recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Phil Bryant Aviation and Aerospace Workforce Academy, which will be built across the street from KHSA’s airfield in Hancock County.  PRCC provides instruction in UAS through their Unmanned Aerial Systems Technology program.  The construction of a Multi-User Aerostrip would enable PRCC students of the future Aviation and Aerospace Workforce Academy the ability to increase UAS capabilities and training efforts, providing an increased workforce pipeline for the burgeoning UAS field.  This workforce pipeline will also benefit major companies already located in Hancock County, such as Aerojet Rocketdyne and Lockheed Martin as the need for UAS operations continues to grow.


The third component that will, in time, play into the Multi-User Aerostrip is the Stennis Spaceport.  Hancock County Port & Harbor Commission is actively seeking licensure through the FAA to establish Spaceport operations, which is approximately a 24-month long process.

The purpose of going through the FAA licensing process to establish a Spaceport at Stennis International Airport is to address the paradigm shift in the commercial market, which is rapidly moving to small rockets, which are also known as satellites or payloads.  HCPHC and its advisors foresee small satellites as a burgeoning commercial market, and the Stennis Spaceport is being built to capture and create new business in the commercial space industry for Hancock County.

The Aerostrip will serve as a taxiway to a safe zone refueling area to be developed as a subsequent project.  

These three uses of the Multi-User Aerostrip will position the State of Mississippi as a leader in Aerospace, and locally will grow jobs, tax base, and revenue in Hancock County.  The total cost of the project is $16.3 Million with an estimated timeline of 10 months, from groundbreaking to final inspection.

Funding for construction of the Multi-User Aerostrip is sought from BP Economic Damages Funds, was recommended to the legislature by the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund Board and is pending approval by the legislature.  The package includes $3.2 Million in local match.



The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission was established in 1963 to lead the county’s economic development activities. Stennis International Airport and Port Bienville Industrial Park are home to 30 companies with more than 1,000 employees. For more information visit www.portairspace.com

#Aerospace, #Capital Projects, #Community, #Military, #Stennis International Airpark, #Stennis International Airport, #Stennis Space Center, #Unmanned