Meridian Regional Airport

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Meridian Regional Airport
Key Field
Airport type Public
Owner Meridian Airport Authority
Serves Meridian, Mississippi
Elevation AMSL 297 ft / 91 m
Coordinates 32°19′57″N 088°45′07″W / 32.33250°N 88.75194°W / 32.33250; -88.75194Coordinates: 32°19′57″N 088°45′07″W / 32.33250°N 88.75194°W / 32.33250; -88.75194
MEI is located in Mississippi
Location of airport in Mississippi
Direction Length Surface
ft m
1/19 10,003 3,049 Asphalt/Concrete
4/22 4,599 1,402 Asphalt
Statistics (2012)
Aircraft operations 85,250
Based aircraft 75
Sources: Airport[1] and FAA[2]

Meridian Regional Airport[1] (IATA: MEI[3]ICAO: KMEIFAA LID: MEI) is a public use airport located at Key Field,[2] a joint use public/military airfield. It is located 3 nautical miles (5.6 km; 3.5 mi) southwest of Meridian, a city in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, United States.[2] The airport is owned by the Meridian Airport Authority.[2] At 10,003 feet (3,049 m), Key Field is home to the longest public use runway in Mississippi.[4] It is mostly used for general aviation and military traffic, but is also served by one commercial airline with scheduled passenger service subsidized by the Essential Air Service program.

As per the Federal Aviation Administration, this airport had 19,599 passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2008,[5] 18,560 in 2009, and 16,871 in 2010.[6] The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015 categorized it as a primary commercial service facility.[7]


Main Hangar at Key Field

Meridian Regional Airport was established in 1928 and opened in November 1930 with the completion of the terminal, hangar, powerhouse and a graded and packed dirt runway. Meridian city officials asked Al and Fred Key, who operated the Key Brothers' Flying School at Bonita, to co-manage the new facility. The brothers maintained their flying school at the new field as well as their other duties, such as selling commercial airline tickets, operating the terminal and hangar, and handling airmail delivery schedules.[8]

With the onset of the Great Depression, the City of Meridian considered abandoning the airport because of the cost of maintenance.[9] Airmail deliveries tapered off, and few people could afford to take commercial flights or pay for flying lessons. The Key Brothers, however, devised a scheme to keep the airport operating. They hoped that by breaking the standing flight endurance record of 23 days they would focus worldwide attention on Meridian and its airport.[8]

From June 4 until July 1, 1935, the brothers flew over Meridian; a total flight time of over 27 days. Key Field is named in their honor. The hangar and offices used by the Key brothers preceding and following the flight are still in use today and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

During World War II, the facility operated under the control of the United States Army Air Corps.

Air National Guard use[edit]

Key Field is home to the Mississippi Air National Guard's 186th Air Refueling Wing (186 ARW), at Key Field Air National Guard Base. Operationally gained by the Air Mobility Command (AMC), the 186 ARW operates a fleet of KC-135R Stratotanker aerial refueling and cargo aircraft.[4]

Key Field is also home to the Mississippi Army National Guard's 185th Army Aviation Support Facility, Company G. The 185th operates a fleet of CH-47 Chinook helicopters, a multipurpose transport/cargo helicopter capable of carrying 55 troops and gear or can also sling-load up to 25,000 pounds.[4]

Navy T-45 Goshawk aircraft from nearby NAS Meridian and Air Force T-6A, T-1A and T-38C aircraft from Columbus AFB also frequently practice approaches and other procedures over Key Field.

Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) capabilities are provided by the Air National Guard. Due to their mission as an air refueling wing, the ANG ARFF assets provide the entire airport with firefighting capabilities that will rival any airport in the Southeastern United States.

In 2008, the 186 ARW entered into an arrangement with the active Air Force, hosting an operational training detachment for USAF-operated MC-12W aircraft under a program known as Project Liberty. The MC-12W is a USAF intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform and Air Combat Command (ACC) asset, which was fielded under an ambitious timeline in 2008 and 2009 to meet ground support ISR requirements in the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) Area of Responsibility for Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF). A derivative of the C-12 Huron, the MC-12W Liberty platform was created in response to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' initiative to better support warfighters on the ground with increased ISR in theater. USAF plans to procure 38 MC-12W aircraft. Mission qualification training in the MC-12W is currently conducted by a combined active Air Force and Air National Guard detachment embedded with the 186 ARW at Key Field.[10]

According to the 2005 BRAC Report, the 186 ARW is to be reassigned per recommendation #97, distributing its KC-135R aircraft between the Air National Guard's 101 ARW, 128 ARW, and 134 ARW, in Maine, Wisconsin, and Tennessee, respectively. The BRAC Report also states that the 186 ARW's aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) positions are to be reassigned to the Mississippi Air National Guard's 172nd Airlift Wing (172 AW), an AMC-gained C-17 Globemaster III unit at Jackson International Airport. These transfers are to take place in 2010 and 2011, although the recent addition of the MC-12W Project Liberty program at Key Field may delay or eliminate the ARFF reassignment.

In 2011, the same year that the 2005 BRAC realignments are to be completed, the 186th ARW is expecting to receive two new missions. According to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and State Adjutant General Harold Cross, these missions are to be a new Joint Cargo Aircraft mission and an Air Force War Fighting Headquarters.[11] According to Tom Williams, CEO of Meridian Airport Authority, this will result in an increase in local jobs at Meridian's Air National Guard facility.[12]

The 286th Air Operations Group activated on April 8, 2011 to support the missions of the Continental US NORAD Region and 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) at Tyndall AFB, Fla. The new group belongs to Key Field's 186th Air Refueling Wing, which is losing its KC-135 tankers under BRAC 2005.[13]

Facilities and aircraft[edit]

Terminal Building, Old, Hangar and Powerhouse at Key Field
Meridian Terminal Building at Key Field.jpg
The old terminal building
Location 2525 US 11 S, Meridian, Mississippi
Coordinates 32°20′14″N 88°44′33″W / 32.33722°N 88.74250°W / 32.33722; -88.74250
Area 1.6 acres (0.65 ha)
Built 1930
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 03000587[14]
Added to NRHP July 7, 2003

Key Field covers an area of 863 acres (349 ha) at an elevation of 298 feet (91 m) above mean sea level. It has two runways: 1/19 is 10,003 by 150 feet (3,049 x 46 m) with an asphalt and concrete surface; 4/22 is 4,599 by 150 feet (1,402 x 46 m) with an asphalt surface.[2] Most of the site is paved in asphalt, with a large parking area in front of the terminal. Only small areas around the buildings are unpaved, and landscaping is limited to the terminal, which has shrubbery and an ornamental tree.[8]

The old terminal building, hangar, and powerhouse at Key Field together form the earliest surviving airport complex in the state of Mississippi and were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.[14] After being listed, the buildings were rehabilitated for use as a Cessna flight training school and repair shop.[15]

The old terminal building is a two-story brick building crowned with a gabled roof and parapeted end walls.[9] Facing east toward Highway 11, the building is supported by a concrete foundation. The side wings and front pavilion of the terminal have flat parapeted roofs as well, and a gable-roofed porte-cochère extends from the front pavilion and terminates at a taller brick wall, in which is a large arched opening. The front pavilion has another arched opening that leads to a recessed entrance. A one-story polygonal porch dominates the rear facade, facing the airfield. Flanking the porch, there are arched openings in the side wings as well. The second floor has a central door that opens onto the porch roof, forming an observation deck overlooking the airfield. The interior of the building contains a waiting room with the former manager's office to the north and the baggage and mailroom to the south. All the walls in the building are plastered, and the floors are vinyl tile. A staircase leads to the second floor, which is a single room that originally housed the weather bureau.[8]

The rectangular hangar accommodates 10 planes, and is still in use today.[9] The building is made of brick and has a concrete foundation. The roof is gabled, and the walls are parapeted. The end walls are capped by pent roofs and decorative brick panels framed by stucco. The north and south ends contain eight large sliding metal doors, which open to allow planes to roll in. The interior has a concrete floor, unfinished brick walls, and an unfinished ceiling with exposed steel trusses. There is a small office and washroom on the east end, and a staircase leads to a narrow second floor room that overlooks the workroom and hangar storage area.[8] Located on the east side of the hangar, the Powerhouse is a one-story, one-by-one bay building with another gabled roof and parapeted walls.[9] Entrance is gained through a door on the south side of the building, and the only other openings are a metal window on the east side, and a small vent on the west side.[8]

For the 12-month period ending December 31, 2012, the airport had 85,250 aircraft operations, an average of 233 per day: 52% general aviation, 46% military, 2% air taxi, and <1% scheduled commercial. At that time there were 75 aircraft based at this airport: 47% single-engine, 13% multi-engine, 5% jet, 12% helicopter, and 23% military.[2]

Meridian Regional Airport Authority operates Meridian Aviation, a full service fixed base operator (FBO) on the airport.

Airline and destinations[edit]

Airlines with scheduled passenger service to non-stop destinations:

Airlines Destinations
American Eagle Dallas-Fort Worth, Hattiesburg/Laurel


Carrier shares: January – December 2013[16]
Carrier   Passengers (arriving and departing)
Top domestic destinations: Jan. – Dec. 2013[16]
Rank City Airport name & IATA code Passengers
1 Atlanta, GA Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) 6,160
2 Hattiesburg / Laurel, MS Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional (PIB) 20


  1. ^ a b "Meridian Regional Airport". Meridian Airport Authority. Retrieved June 29, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f FAA Airport Master Record for MEI (Form 5010 PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective May 31, 2012.
  3. ^ "IATA Airport Code Search (MEI: Meridian / Key Field)". International Air Transport Association. Retrieved June 6, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c "Meridian Regional Airport - Facts". Meridian Airport Authority. Retrieved June 29, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). CY 2008 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009.  External link in |work= (help)
  6. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). CY 2010 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  7. ^ "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF, 2.03 MB). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010.  External link in |work= (help)
  8. ^ a b c d e f Crook, Brenda R. (May 23, 2003). "NRHP Nomination: Old Terminal Building, Hangar, and Powerhouse at Key Field" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places (National Park Service). 
  9. ^ a b c d "Old Terminal Building, Hangar, and Powerhouse at Key Field". National Park Service. 
  10. ^ MC-12 Liberty,
  11. ^ Livingston, Brian (February 1, 2007). "186th gets two new missions: Air cargo and war fighting capabilities on the horizon". The Meridian Star. 
  12. ^ Gillespie, Steve (February 3, 2007). "Meridian Military Team reflects on BRAC fight, celebrates success". The Meridian Star. 
  13. ^ Romano, Lt. Col. Susan A. "Mississippi Airmen join CONR-1st AF team". AFNORTH Public Affairs. 
  14. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009. 
  15. ^ "2002 Heritage Awards". Mississippi Heritage Trust. 
  16. ^ a b "Meridian, MS: Key Field (MEI)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), U.S. Department of Transportation. December 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2014. 

Other sources[edit]

  • Essential Air Service documents (Docket DOT-OST-2008-0112) from the U.S. Department of Transportation:
    • Ninety-day notice (March 17, 2008): of Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Inc. (ASA) of intent to discontinue its unsubsidized service between Meridian, Mississippi and Atlanta, Georgia after June 15, 2008.
    • Order 2008-3-24 (March 25, 2008): prohibiting Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Inc., d/b/a Delta Connection, from suspending service at Meridian, Mississippi, and requesting proposals by April 23 from carriers interested in providing replacement essential air service (EAS).
    • Order 2008-5-12 (May 13, 2008): selecting Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Inc. d/b/a Delta Connection, (ASA) to provide essential air service at Meridian, Mississippi, at an annual subsidy rate of $686,489. The rate extends through June 30, 2010.
    • Order 2010-5-28 (May 25, 2010): re-selecting Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Inc., d/b/a Delta Connection (ASA), to provide essential air service (EAS) at Meridian, Mississippi, at an annual subsidy rate of $678,936. The selection extends from July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2012.
    • Notice of Intent (April 9, 2014): of Silver Airways Corp. ... to discontinue subsidized scheduled air service between Atlanta, Georgia ("ATL") and Meridian, Mississippi ("MEl"). Silver Airways intends to discontinue this service effective July 8, 2014.
    • Order 2014-4-24 (April 22, 2014): prohibits Silver Airways Corp., from terminating service at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Greenville, Laurel/Hattiesburg, Meridian, and Tupelo, Mississippi, for 30 days beyond the end of the air carrier’s 90-day notice period, i.e. August 7, 2014. We are also requesting proposals from air carriers interested in providing Essential Air Service (EAS) at Muscle Shoals, Greenville, Laurel/Hattiesburg, Meridian, and/or Tupelo.

External links[edit]