Mar. 25, 2004 - The airport authority for Panama City-Bay County International Airport (PFN) in Panama City, Fla., needs to make sure it has broad support from both pilots and the community at large if it were to relocate the airport, AOPA warned.
In a letter to the head of the local airport authority, AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn said, "Let me be clear that the general aviation community is not seeking the new airport since current users are served well by the existing airport."
AOPA reiterated its position that should the airport authority go ahead with its relocation plans, it must ensure that general aviation pilots are provided with facilities equal to or better than facilities at the current airport, and that the facilities must be provided on fair and reasonable terms without increases in rates and charges for airport users.
AOPA has been closely involved for more than two years as the Panama City-Bay County Airport Authority considered relocation. The current airport has a number of physical constraints that prevent expansion, but many general aviation pilots based at PFN say it fulfills their needs.
A number of AOPA members in the Panama City have expressed strong opposition to the proposed move. A nearly equal number either support the idea, or at the least do not oppose it. Support among the community at large is similarly split, and that, says Dunn, is a concern for AOPA, and should be for the local airport authority as well.
"While the results of [a recent straw poll of local voters], 54% against the new airport and 46% for relocation, is by no means a landslide or a mandate or even binding on the Authority, the results do indicate that a majority of those who voted are not supportive of the project," wrote Dunn. "Having been involved with a number of similar issues nationally, our experience indicates that opinions of local voters will indeed weigh heavily on the FAA's decision to fund development projects relating to a relocated airport.
Based on our experiences across the aviation community, projects of this magnitude must have community support to succeed."