BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – As airport leaders work to leverage grant funding to attract a direct-service flight to Chicago, a second project is underway at Tri-Cities Airport.

For the first time in 12 years, the airport is working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Tennessee Department of Transportation to update its master plan.

“Now is the perfect time to do it,” airport Executive Director Gene Cossey told News Channel 11. “We just got through with working through the whole situation that COVID had made and now we’re at a point where we’re looking for a lot of growth and we want to make sure we’re ready to to live up to that growth and be ready for it.”

Airport staff and consultants have been working to catalog the airport’s current infrastructure from hangar space to security lines and jet bridges.

Now, Cossey says the team is working to prepare for potential future scenarios for the travelers of the next decade.

“We’re also seeing a lot of growth in the people who commute back and forth,” Cossey said. “People can work from anywhere now, and while they can work from anywhere, they want to be able to fly places to get there. So we’re seeing a lot more demand on the whole aviation infrastructure.”

Cossey said the plan dovetails well with the efforts the airport is already making to make additional routes, like flights to Chicago and more Florida locations.

“As we continue to try to develop those opportunities, and as we have things like the grant that gives us the incentive to be able to provide to the airlines, we obviously will need to make sure that our terminal matches those needs just as well as having the aircraft here,” Cossey said.

In addition to collecting more formal data, the study will incorporate feedback from the public.

“This is your airport,” Cossey said. “We want to know what your needs are.”

The first of several open houses planned to collect public input will take place Nov. 15 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Basler Library Room at Northeast State Community College.

The plan will be completed in spring 2025.