U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds in their iconic diamond formation zoom past the huge crowd at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport during the Wings Over North Georgia Air Show in this file photo from 2016. / Doug Walker, file

Cowman had hoped to have the Royal Air Force Red Arrows flight team in Rome as part of the Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31 - Sept. 1, show but that appears in doubt at this point due to scheduling concerns. Cowman said he's not completely written them out but that it wasn't looking good.

"We're still going to have a great line-up and several top military units in Rome for the show," Cowman said.

Assistant Floyd County Manager said the current agreement with JLC Air shows for use of the airport for the show expires this year, and the negotiations to continue the event have yet to be completed but he does not foresee any major issues.

Looking toward a return engagement of the Thunderbirds for next year, Cowman is hopeful that the 1,260 -foot extension of the main runway at Richard B. Russell Airport/Admiral John Towers Field can be completed in time for the unit to actually be based in Rome instead of Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta. The unit does require 7,000 feet as opposed to the 6,000 feet now available.

Assistant Floyd County Manager Gary Burkhalter is cautiously optimistic the extension can be completed by the October 2020 event.

“We would love to have it done by 2020," Burkhalter said. Bids for the project came in well above the available SPLOST funds for the project in 2018, and county leaders have been working with consultants get the project going again.

$5.7 million was earmarked in the 2013 SPLOST.

"We've already spent some of the money for design and other things leading up to the actual construction," said Burkhalter.

C.W. Matthews submitted the low bid for the extension last summer at $8.23 million. Northwest Georgia Paving was the only other bidder at $10.46 million.

"We are considering a trip to D.C. in the next week or two to meet with our senators and representative and FAA for a funding request we have for this project," Burkhalter said. "We have gotten word that possibly a decision could be made later this month. If that decision is made to receive the additional funding we are shovel ready."

He estimates the budget shortfall to be between $4 million and $5 million.

If the additional federal money does not come through, Burkhalter said officials have discussed the possibility of doing the project in phases over time, perhaps in as many as three different pieces, and look for other funding options.

"We're hoping we don't have to go that route," Burkhalter said.

Burkhalter also said the process of finding a replacement for Mike Mathews as airport manager has been narrowed to the final two candidates. Second interviews with each of the finalists are being scheduled but Burkhalter could not say when a decision might be forthcoming.