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First flight takes off from new Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport runway

Local 10 News reporter Christina Vazquez on board inaugural JetBlue flight Thursday morning

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Local 10 News reporter Christina Vazquez boarded a JetBlue plane Thursday morning for the inaugural flight taking off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport's newly expanded south runway.

The charter flight to benefit the United Way of Broward County took off at 9:15 a.m. and landed back on the new runway at 9:45 a.m.

One hundred and fifty passengers were on board the ceremonial flight, and gathered together for the grand opening ceremony at 10 a.m.

"With the larger airplanes you need a longer runway," said Capt. Randy Forester, the JetBlue pilot who flew the inaugural flight on the new runway. "This is going to help out because we can take off from this runway, we can depart, we can also land on this runway -- so now we have two really good runways here that we can use."

The idea for the 8,000-foot, partially elevated runway was conceived nearly 30 years ago, with the runway's groundbreaking taking place in Jan. 2012.

Throughout the duration of the project, 11,000 temporary jobs were created.

With two runways now dedicated to commercial aviation, FLL hopes to reduce flight delays and better accommodate volume of current and anticipated fight traffic.

The airport welcomed 23.5 million visitors in 2013 and accommodates 600,000-700,000 flights a year. 

FLL also ranks 21st in the U.S. in total passenger traffic.

"We are going to have more international flights, more revenue generating here at the airport, and more jobs -- so this is truly a win-win for Broward County," said Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief.

The first commercial flight to use the new South Runway was another JetBlue flight. At 2:40 p.m. flight 506 departed to Newark, New Jersey.

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About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.