This Las Cruces airport is going places. That is what Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Debbi Moore said when the chamber held its annual awards banquet at Las Cruces International Airport, whose airport indicator is KLRU, last fall.
With the hangar doors open to the dark desert sky and the flashing lights and the low hum of a helicopter in the background, Debbi said the chamber, the City of Las Cruces, and many other partners are committed to helping the 80-year-old airport grow and expand to serve not only Las Cruces and Doña Ana County, but also all of Southern New Mexico and beyond.
Owned by the City of Las Cruces for more than 65 years, the airport is located about 10 miles west of Downtown Las Cruces via Interstate 10 and access roads on both sides of I-10.
“What this is all about is having the airport play a vital role as an economic engine for the region,” said Andy Hume, who became airport administrator for the city in 2018 after successfully leading the revitalization of Downtown Las Cruces.
Development of the Las Cruces airport is taking a major step forward in early 2023, as California-based Advanced Airlines begins weekday flights between Las Cruces and Albuquerque.
The city announced that Advanced Airlines would begin the flights in January. Its two-year contract with the airline is funded by a $3.8 million grant from the New Mexico Department of Transportation.
“It’s going to be a big help with economic development,” said New Mexico Senator Bill Soules, a Las Cruces Democrat who is also a pilot.
Making Travel Easier
The flights will be a particular boon to Las Cruces residents doing business in Albuquerque or Santa Fe, Senator Soules said, because they will be able to fly to and from Albuquerque in less than an hour instead of spending seven or eight hours on the highway driving back and forth or taking an hour for the trip to El Paso International Airport and paying for parking.
It will also mean time and gasoline saved for other Southern New Mexico residents looking to catch a plane because the Las Cruces airport is 60 miles closer to Deming and Truth or Consequences than the El Paso airport.
And for anyone flying out of Las Cruces, the link to Albuquerque will connect them to Phoenix, Dallas, Denver, and other major cities, said Senator Soules, who is a former member of the Las Cruces Airport Advisory Board.
“You get to those places, you can get to anywhere in the world,” Senator Soules said. “The possibilities are huge.” Intrastate air service will also be a big boost to Las Cruces going the other way, he said, because business owners and developers who live in Albuquerque will no longer have to fly to El Paso and rent a car to get to Las Cruces. That likely will benefit the city’s 1,820-acre Innovation and Industrial Park, which is located on both sides of I-10 and adjacent to the airport and is another important piece of the city’s 20-year master plan, Senator Soules said.
A vibrant Las Cruces airport will also bring restaurants, hotels, apartment buildings, and other commercial and residential development to the more than eight miles that stretch between West Las Cruces and the airport.
“That corridor is going to fill up, commercially and residentially,” Debbi said.
Las Cruces Airport History
Las Cruces International Airport is spread across nearly 2,200 acres of the Chihuahuan Desert on Las Cruces’ West Mesa. The airport was built by the Civil Aviation Administration under the Development of Landing Areas for National Defense program in 1942, as World War II continue into its third year.
First called Las Cruces Municipal Airport, it served as an auxiliary airfield to Deming Army Airbase, about 50 miles to the west.
The City of Las Cruces acquired ownership of the airport from the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1955. It was renamed Las Cruces West in the 1960s and was one of three regional airports, along with Las Cruces East and University Airport.
The three airports were consolidated at the westside location as Crawford Airport in the mid-1960s. It has been Las Cruces International Airport since 1984.
The Las Cruces airport terminal was built in 1975. An access road connecting the airport to I-10 was completed in 1986, and the airport was placed inside the Las Cruces city limits in 1992.
Mesa Airlines provided air passenger service to Las Cruces from 1985 to 2001. Mesa was followed by Westward Airways, which provided carrier service in 2004 and 2005 to Albuquerque and Phoenix and was the last carrier to serve Las Cruces.
Las Cruces Airport Today and Tomorrow
Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima said he is looking forward to intrastate air service coming back to Las Cruces, having often flown with Mesa Airlines when it provided service.
As its expansion continues, the Las Cruces airport could also regularly host local and regional events, Andy said. Its Airport Appreciation Day last October attracted hundreds of visitors from all over New Mexico and other states, who came to see civilian and military aircraft, classic cars, fire engines, and other city vehicles, as well as learn more about what aviation means to Las Cruces.
The airport completed its first expansion in five years in late 2022, as taxi lanes have expanded and more airport hangars are now open for public use, including more T-hangars and box hangars — what Andy calls “single-family” and “multi-family” homes for planes.
Airport Services and Tenants
Andy said the airport will have two flight schools to train new pilots. Both Bellator Aviation and Frost Aviation have more students than they can handle, Andy said, reflecting a nationwide resurgence in aviation.
KLRU is also home to fixed-base operators Francis Aviation and Southwest Aviation; Lynco Flight Services, which provides hangar rentals; Mesilla Valley Aircraft and Privette Aviation, which provide aircraft maintenance and repair; Brahn Sport Aircraft, which provides aircraft parts and supplies; and Exclusive Aircraft Interiors, which does upholstery work.
Airport tenants also include New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Lab, the Civil Air Patrol, and New Mexico National Guard. Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 555 — also known as the Triple Nickel — has its own hangar on KLRU’s Wingspan Drive where it intersects with Gasoline Alley.
The group was able to purchase the hangar thanks in part to a large donation from former NASA astronaut and one-time Las Cruces resident Frank Borman. The nonprofit was founded in 1976 “to promote aviation by supporting aircraft building, flight training, and aviation safety,” according to its Facebook page.
The EAA supports the Young Eagles program that helps get young people interested in aviation.
The airport is also home to Jim Bob’s BBQ, which opened its location at KLRU in 2020 and is locally owned and operated by Jim Leon. A short distance from the airport’s main gate is Las Cruces Fire Station No. 7, which is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The station also serves as a training facility for the Las Cruces Fire Department.
For more information, visit las-cruces.org/1246/Airport.
Posted by LasCruces.com