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CHANDLER, AZ-The Gila River Indian Tribe is making an effort to expand a World War II airport near Chandler’s high-tech corridor. Tribal leaders have voted to spend $250,000 to begin a refurbishment and enhancement project at Memorial Airport, a small facility developed by the Army Air Corps during World War II. The tribe hopes to bring cargo and commercial flights to the airport.

The airport is near the southeast corner of Queen Creek Road and Interstate 10 on the Gila River Indian Community. The airport is less than a half mile from the Chandler border and near some operations of some of the largest high-tech companies in the Valley, including Intel, Motorola and Avnet. The runway is long enough for all planes but the largest commercial jets. Just four tenants now lease space at the aging facility, using it for general aviation and the storage of private planes.

The Indian leaders hope to extend their land lease to as much as 50 years so they can obtain financing for improvements. The banks won’t lend improvement funds to the tribe because the land lease has only 26 years remaining and it’s not enough time to amortize new debt. If the land lease is extended, the tribe would apply for enhancement funds from the FAA, which would be used to repair and light the runway. The tribe hopes to have the airport busy with commercial and cargo flights in three or four years.

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