NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The final beam of the new canopy at BNA was set Thursday in an official topping out ceremony.

It’s part of a $1.4 billion expansion plan at the airport that includes a new state-of-the-art international arrivals facility, set to open in September 2023. Upon the opening, tying Tennessee to Asia with a non-stop flight is a top priority.

As we explained in our special reports earlier in the week, global markets are heavily involved in how we operate in Music City.

As we learned, Nashville has all of these ties to Asia, with no direct flight.

Nissan, Bridgestone, Mitsubishi and about 70 other Japanese-owned companies have operations in the Nashville region.

Among our top export partners in 2020 are Hong Kong, China and Japan, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

There’s a trend here and Doug Kreulen, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority wants a direct flight to Asia to go with it.

“You have to really work the economics and make sure you can fill the airplane and that’s really the sales job that we have to do business-wise, leisure-wise that we think we can fill this jet if we’re able to get a carrier to go nonstop to,” Kreulen said.

However, a 7,000-mile flight to Asia requires expansion here at home.

Nashville International Airport currently operates with six different airlines flying to six international cities within Canada, Mexico and England.

“The next big step for Nashville is we have the London flight. We clearly need more international flights to Tokyo. It would be great to have other flights to other cities in  Europe and that’s going to happen,” explained Karl Dean, Nashville’s former mayor.

“What we would like to do is lengthen what we call ‘runway 2 left’ and make it move over Murfreesboro Road. So, we’d have to lower Murfreesboro Road about 60-70 feet and put a tunnel in it so the runway would go over,” Kreulen said.

A longer flight requires longer runways due to the weight of the fuel, passengers and cargo involved.

In the winter, BNA is in good shape to house a flight to Asia, in the summer, not so much; with hot temperatures and humidity, planes take longer to get off of the ground.

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“Over the next five years, we hope to work with FAA, the governor and the State of Tennessee, to get permission to lengthen that runway across Murfreesboro Road. So, a five-year goal would be awesome to see something like that happening for us,” Kreulen said.