Centerlines - January 2008 - (Page 39)

N O W U N D E R WAY Panama City En Route to Relocation B Y N IC OL E N E L S ON THE ORIGINAL 1940S airport location is confined by residential areas on three sides and on the fourth side by the water body of St. Andrews Bay. With the low end of its runway scaled at seven feet above sea level, Panama City’s elevation also is an issue because the airport is susceptible to flooding, particularly in the event of tropical storms and hurricanes. In addition, the airport is located in close proximity to Tyndall Air Force Base, impacting its flight operations to the south and southeast of the airport. Air service is particularly limited by the airport’s short, 6,304-foot runway. Certain aircraft types may not operate at Panama City due to weight restrictions, limiting movements primarily to general aviation and Delta and Northwest feeder carriers’ regional jet and turbo-prop operations. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) runway safetyarea standards also are at odds. The airport’s, safety area on the northwest end of the base side is merely a 49-foot buffer, while the opposite end allows roughly 500 feet – far short of the required 1,000 feet. “Being hemmed in between the bay, the highway and the residential areas made it extremely difficult to expand to do some of the developments we would like to do,” Executive Director Randy Curtis said of the airport’s existing 700acre property. “We had tried for nearly 30 years to extend our runway into the bay to meet the FAA safety-area standards. That was an extremely controversial proposal that received a lot of concern from environmental groups. We finally came to the realization that we would not be able to get the necessary permits to do that.” In 1998, it was determined that the best course was to build a new airport on the opposite side of St. Andrews Bay. One of the largest landowners in Florida, the St. Joe Co., is donating more than 75,000 undeveloped acres in the west bay area of Panama City as part of the West Bay Sector Plan, one of the largest mixed-use, planned communities in the United States. The new, state-of-the-art airport will be built on 1,300 acres of 4,000 acres donated to the airport authority and approximately 40,000 acres will be placed in a preservation zone including 33 miles of shoreline along the bay. Commercial, office, and industrial entitlements will total approximately 4.4 million square feet, and approximately 5,480 dwelling units are planned for residential communities flanked by marinas and other recreational areas. With the abundance of land and opportunity for development, Bay County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carol Roberts said the St. Joe-initiated plan was “an opportunity we just could not pass up.” “The airport is a critical part of that puzzle, and the industrial land helps us create jobs for our residents,” Roberts said. “This relocation not only affects Bay County, but it will service an entire region.” Two runways will be built on the new property at 8,400-feet and 5,000-feet for commercial and general aviation use respectively. Accommodations for a third parallel runway are also part of the planned airport development. Roberts said the tourism-driven community continues to promote the airport to low-cost carriers. “Those carriers have made it perfectly clear that they are not inter- Artist’s rendering of the new Panama City-Bay County International Airport. Completion is scheduled for 2010. ested in our current location, but they are very interested in the relocated airport,” Roberts said, noting that the airport is being designed with the anticipation that low-fare carriers will come through with their good word. “As far as our tourism industry – our No. 1 industry – is concerned, it is going to help us put heads in beds and open our market up to the world.” Consulting partners in the airport development including AVCON, GAC, Greenhorne & O’Mara, HNTB, KBR and PBS&J sponsored a ceremonial ground breaking for the Panama CityBay County Airport Nov. 1. Despite the fact that construction has been temporarily blocked by a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration seeking to halt the $300 million project, Curtis estimates completion on the anticipated 105,000-square-foot terminal facility by 2010. Panama City has secured the necessary federal and state funding for the project, and the sale of the existing airport site will complete the major elements of the funding framework for relocation. ■ | CENTERLINES 39

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Centerlines - January 2008

President’s Message
Canadian Airports
Associates’ Corner
Policy Center
Regulatory Front
On the Hill and On the Stump
One on One: Dave Barger
Revenue: The Concessions Awards
Environment: O’Hare Expansion
Passenger Focus: Houston Friendly
Safety and Security: After Comair, What Next?
Air Service Recruiting: Charleston’s Acquisition of AirTran
On Management: Performance Benchmarking at DFW
Now Underway
Grand Opening
Conference Previews and Reviews
New Members
Index of Advertisers/
Box Scores

Centerlines - January 2008