Board Guest Column: The Daily Sun

Rob Hancik is a commissioner on the Charlotte County Airport Authority and member of the Curmudgeon Club of Charlotte County. Column provided to the Charlotte Sun. 

Airport’s growth a financial boost for county

PUNTA GORDA (June 26, 2021) – Punta Gorda Airport is back in full swing. April was the first month Allegiant flights averaged 75% full and total passenger numbers are now aligning with 2019 numbers.

If you make a morning trip to the terminal building you might not even think there was a pandemic… well except for the masks. While mask requirements are being loosened you are still required to wear one while in the terminal probably at least for the next few months.

For passengers, you’ll see we have added an additional 1,000 paved parking spaces, no more parking in the grass during peak travel times, and color coding the long-term lots so you don’t lose your car! The old restaurant has been converted to the Snack Shack, south of the terminal, a public vending area with indoor and outdoor seating.

What else do passengers and airport users have to look forward to? We are expanding The Junction in the gate area with a 40-seat view of the runway, and a windowfront bar is planned to open within a year. Our new friends from Minneapolis will be able to enjoy it while waiting for their Sun Country flight.

Staff is working on a ground lease for a new gas station at the main entrance to incorporate a cell phone lot and a national fast-food chain for the board’s consideration.

We will also be reaching out to the community when the date for Runway 4-22’s closure is more certain as its rehabilitation will modify flight patterns for about a year.

While the world has changed a lot this last year, PGD continued to make progress with major capital improvements like the rehabilitation and extension of Runway 15-33 completed this past October. A point of interest is that runway numbers are determined by their position to magnetic North and dropping the last number. We are under construction on a new General/Corporate Aviation Complex off of Challenger Boulevard. This development on the North side of the airport, named PGD AviEx, will be a hub for corporate hangars, flight schools, a new restaurant, aircraft maintenance and other aviation services.

We’re constantly connecting the dots encouraging economic and workforce development. The Charlotte Technical College now has a FAA-Certified Aviation Maintenance Technician School launching at the airport in August. There is a large demand for aircraft mechanics, with intrinsically high paying career jobs.

The school also becomes an attractant for aviation businesses to locate in Charlotte County.

As a member of the Charlotte County Airport Authority, I recognize we have a big responsibility to a variety of stakeholders but most importantly to the citizens of Charlotte County.

As board members we don’t always agree, and while there are some spirited discussions, we are optimistic about the future. Thanks to the CARES Airport Grant Act we are able to maintain $25-plus million in cash reserves, fund projects to keep all our staff employed through the difficult months, stay focused on fiscal responsibility, and maintain a strong balance sheet without being on the local tax rolls.

Whether you are an airport user or not you benefit from the airport directly as a general aviation pilot, employed at the airport, an airline passenger or a business located on the airport. Indirectly the airport has a huge influence in economic development and is a gateway for tourism to Southwest Florida.

Besides the airport improvements planned in the short term and years into the future, there is the Florida International Air Show, Oct. 16-17 to look forward to. There’s a little bit of something for everyone at PGD.

We serve the community and business through aviation.