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Ahead of Ford plant, TSA returning to Jackson, Tennessee airport

U.S. Rep. David Kustoff says the Transportation Security Administration is resuming passenger screening service at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport in Jackson.
Credit: McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport
McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport in Jackson, Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Federal security screening is returning to a small West Tennessee airport, a needed upgrade as passenger traffic is expected to increase with new flights to Atlanta and a planned Ford Motor Co. electric truck factory coming to the region, officials said.

The Transportation Security Administration plans to resume passenger screening service at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport in Jackson, U.S. Rep. David Kustoff said Wednesday.

The airport has not had TSA service in 13 years because of a decrease in passenger count and TSA budget constraints, said Steve Smith, the airport's executive director.

Currently, there is no security screening before passengers depart McKellar-Sipes, Smith said Thursday. Passengers have been required to go through TSA security checkpoints at their next airport, including bag check, before connecting to another flight.

When the TSA returns later this year, travel will be less-time consuming for passengers using the airport, Smith said.

"With full TSA service now at MKL, passengers can access connecting flights without having to go through additional screening," said Kustoff, a Republican who serves several rural West Tennessee counties. "This announcement will ensure consistent and reliable air travel, which is critical to West Tennessee's economic prosperity."

Ford plans to build a $5.6 billion factory to make electric pickup trucks at the sprawling Memphis Regional Megasite, located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Jackson and 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Memphis. The so-called Blue Oval City is expected of bring new businesses and thousands of jobs to the region. SK Innovation also plans to build a battery manufacturing facility at the site as part of a joint venture with Ford.

Kustoff and Republican U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty cited the Ford project and the opening of the Great Wolf Lodge waterpark and hotel in the region in a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske asking him to consider the airport's application.

Also, Southern Airways Express has begun offering three flights every day to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

"TSA service is essential to ensuring passengers traveling between Jackson and Atlanta are able to seamlessly connect to their destination," said the letter dated June 6.

Smith said the airport is also planning to resurface its main 6,000-foot (1,828-meter) runway.

"We're already feeling the business pickup from the Blue Oval City announcement last year," Smith said. "We're getting a lot of the corporate-side and construction-side traffic right now. There's just a lot of things going on."

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