GA must have access to new Florida airport

August 4, 2010

A new airport that is replacing Panama City-Bay County International Airport in Panama City, Fla., has opened to the airlines, but general aviation isn’t receiving the same warm welcome.

Airline service started at the new airport, Northwest Florida-Panama City Airport, three months ago, but GA facilities have not been completed yet, forcing pilots to operate out of the old airport, which no longer has instrument approaches, weather services, fuel, or maintenance. The airport authority has indicated to AOPA that it will issue a notam closing Panama City-Bay County International Airport to transient traffic. In the meantime, aircraft based at that airport have no alternative but to remain at the facility that offers fewer and fewer vital services.

Although new GA facilities at Northwest Florida-Panama City Airport are partially built, they have been plagued by flooding, according reports that AOPA has received, and plans for a crosswind runway for GA operations have been abandoned. In addition, the new airport has faced a number of fines for violating Florida environmental laws.

“For the past 10 years, we have received numerous commitments from the airport authority that general aviation operators would be completely accommodated at the new airport,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy, noting that GA accounted for more than 80 percent of the operations at the previous airport. “That simply isn’t happening.”

AOPA has notified the FAA of the situation and has written numerous letters to the Panama City-Bay County Airport Authority, urging them to treat GA in a fair and reasonable manner. AOPA’s latest correspondence calls for the airport authority to make completion of the GA facilities at the new airport a top priority.

“The delays in completion of general aviation facilities at the new airport are extremely disappointing and unacceptable,” Dunn said.

Until GA services are implemented at the new airport, AOPA is working with the FAA to implement a radar-assisted instrument approach at Panama City-Bay County International Airport so that pilots can have an instrument approach while operating at the old airport.