Little to no construction has been started on general aviation facilities at the new Panama City—Bay County International Airport in Panama City, Fla., even though the airport is scheduled to open in May 2010. AOPA wrote to the Panama City—Bay County Airport Authority July 21, expressing concern that GA users were “being treated as an afterthought.”
GA pilots are the primary operators at the current Panama City airport, with nearly 60,000 operations annually, according to the FAA. But the new airport, being built 18 miles from its existing location, will cater more to the airlines, which currently account for only five percent of the traffic at the facility.
“This new airport is being forced on GA pilots—the largest single user of the current airport—to accommodate the airlines, which account for a small percentage of the total operations,” said Bill Dunn, vice president for local airport advocacy. “The airport authority simply isn’t taking the appropriate steps to accommodate general aviation operators at the new airport.”
Even though the ground appears ready, no work has started on fixed-base operators, hangars, or tiedowns. Also, the promised GA crosswind runway seems to be in jeopardy of being built. AOPA also has learned that no leases for GA facilities have been executed, outside of a small group of private hangar owners who will be moving their hangars to the new airport.
AOPA had written to the airport authority in March 2004, expressing the importance of accommodating GA at the new airport. The association insisted that the new facilities be provided on a “fair and reasonable basis without significant increases in rates and charges.”
In its letter this week, the association acknowledged the current economic downturn but encouraged the airport authority to find “creative solutions” to include GA at the airport without imposing “unreasonable or unjustly discriminatory rates and charges.”
“We are requesting that the authority place the needs of general aviation operators as a top priority and immediately undertake actions that will ensure that new facilities are fully developed and ready for occupancy prior to the proposed May 2010 opening of the new airport,” Dunn concluded.