An airport under construction near Panama City, Florida, has overcome the final regulatory hurdle to extending its runway.

The FAA has approved the airport's request to extend its primary runway, Runway 16L-34R, from 8,400ft (2,560.32m) to 10,000ft. The agency's decision will be published in the Federal Register on 2 December.

Florida's Department of Environmental Protection and the US Army Corps of Engineers have already signed off on the request.

The runway extension allows for the accommodation of larger aircraft and potential service from Europe, airport executive director Randy Curtis has said.

Construction of both the runway and the extension is expected to be complete in advance of an 18 January 2010 flight test for the FAA to certify the runway, says a spokeswoman for airport operator the Panama City-Bay County International airport authority.

The recently-christened Northwest Florida Beaches International airport will replace the existing Panama City-Bay International airport effective May 2010. The project was nearly 79% complete as of 17 November.

When the new facility opens next year, it will have new service from Southwest Airlines, which plans to inaugurate two daily flights to four destinations from the new airport. An airline spokeswoman says the destinations are expected to be unveiled in mid-December.

In addition, Delta Air Lines will transfer its current Delta Connection service at the existing airport to the new facility: daily flights to Atlanta operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) and daily flights to Memphis operated by Pinnacle Airlines.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news