Card access is last hurdle for GA at new Florida airport

August 26, 2010

The only remaining delay before Panama City, Fla., pilots can move into general aviation facilities at the new Northwest Florida-Panama City Airport is installation of the card access reader for the GA hangar areas, airport officials told AOPA Vice President of Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn during meetings Aug. 18 and 19.

Airline service started at the new airport, which is replacing Panama City-Bay County International Airport, three months ago, but delays in the completion of GA facilities left GA operators languishing at Bay County without instrument approaches, weather services, fuel, or maintenance as they wait to relocate. Dunn met with airport management and local pilots, briefing pilots on the outcome of meetings with the airport staff.

“We will continue to be in regular contact with the airport authority, pressing them to complete the job they began several years ago,” Dunn said. “GA facilities should have been ready when the new airport opened.”

AOPA has written to the airport authority on a number of occasions, and has spoken directly with the airport’s executive director, pressing for accommodation of GA operators. During the recent meetings, airport officials told Dunn that occupancy permits have been obtained for the new hangars, and that they expect the new reader to be operational in the next week or two at a maximum. He asked the airport administration to provide a minimum fueling service at the old airport until the transition is completed, emphasizing that GA must be a priority for the airport.

“Aircraft owners who use the airport to conduct business activity are being adversely impacted by the ongoing delays and lack of services at the old airport,” Dunn explained. “That is an unacceptable way to treat a segment of aviation that accounts for 90 percent of the operations at the airport and that provides significant economic impact to the local economy and provides jobs.”