Virginia Beach developer requests study of mega-airport for Hampton Roads, Richmond

VIRGINIA BEACH – Developer Bruce Thompson is asking the state to study the feasibility of a regional mega-airport, potentially in the U.S. 460 corridor, to help Hampton Roads grow beyond its “secondary market” status.

Thompson makes his case in a May 23 letter to the editor that he addressed to The Virginian-Pilot. A copy was included in the Virginia Beach city manager’s weekly update to the City Council.

Thompson, CEO of Gold Key/PHR, wrote in an intro to his letter that there is a growing effort within the business community to reopen discussions around the feasibility of a mega regional airport. Several of the organizations he and his company belong to “have suggested I take the lead in requesting that the state and the localities fund a new study,” one commissioned by a state-appointed bipartisan commission, he wrote.

The state completed a similar study about 15 years ago, said Charles Braden, director of market development for Norfolk International Airport. Thompson wrote that it considered only Hampton Roads as the affected market, rather than considering Richmond in the equation, as he and others now propose.

Braden said the earlier study estimated the cost for a mega-airport at $1.4 billion. That estimate is likely to be twice as much now, he said.

In his letter, Thompson described the economic and lifestyle benefits a large-service airport would bring to Hampton Roads, and how necessary it is to encourage major companies in new industries to relocate their corporate headquarters to the region.

“Companies in these industries operate globally,” he wrote. “They can ill afford to conduct business where airlift from regional connector airports routinely involve flight delays, cancellations, not to mention lost luggage as a result of the need for multiple connections. In short, starting new industries in a mega-region and attracting companies and investment where domestic travel, much less international travel, is inconvenent, limited and historically unreliable is simply a non-starter.”

Thompson wrote that “an airport located strategically in the US460 corridor would service our Richmond to the Oceanfront mega-region.”

He added that while some residents enjoy a short drive to Hampton Roads’ airports and usually board with little lines or inconvenience, the “advantage ends at the terminal gate” for the “vast majority of travelers.”

“Local flights are for the most part on small regional jets that require at least one connection, usually to a hub airport,” he wrote. “These smaller planes have limited luggage space and the fares are pricey. Because most of these flights require connections, you may or may not have ample time to get both you and your luggage to the next gate and to your final destination, assuming that the flight is not canceled.”

Braden said Norfolk International does not experience an unusual amount of delays.

“We’re like any other medium-sized airport,” he said.

Have a story idea or news tip? Contact Business reporter Hillary Smith  at or 757-490-2750.

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