PGD’s Transformation from Military Training Base to Economic Powerhouse
Government officials began planning for combat pilot training at the Punta Gorda Army Air Field (PGAAF) in 1941, and officially activated it on December 11, 1943. PGAAF reached its peak in 1944 – housing 1,097 enlisted men including two squadrons of student pilots.
The base had forty Curtiss P-40 “Warhawk” aircraft and later changed to North American P-51 “Mustang” aircraft which were a part of the 3rd Air Force, 3rd Fighter Command at Drew Field (now Tampa International Airport). The Base also had C-45 and C-47 transports.
The Curtiss P-40 “Warhawk” and the North American P-51 “Mustang” were assigned as part of the final flight training for pilots who were soon sent overseas to fight the war in these famed aircraft.
After World War II concluded, the airport complex was turned over to Charlotte County by the War Assets Administration and was managed by the Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners.
Starting in 1949, the Punta Gorda Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol managed some of the airport’s facilities, and assisted in ground search and rescue missions. In 1953, squadron members and community volunteers donated funds and labor to refurbish the building they occupied at the airport.
The Charlotte County Development Authority was created as a public agency by the State of Florida in 1965 to operate and manage the Charlotte County Airport and surrounding commerce park. At that time it was an independent special district with taxing authority.
The Enabling Legislation was amended several times over the years, and in 1993 the taxing authority was revoked. In 1998 the legislation was re-codified and the name was changed to the Charlotte County Airport Authority.
During July 2010, the Authority approved a name change of the airport facility (not the Authority itself) to Punta Gorda Airport. In 2011 legislation was re-codified again that allowed for the Airport Authority to change the name of the airport from the Charlotte County Airport to the Punta Gorda Airport. Effective on June 21, 2011, the Authority amended Chapter 98-508, Laws of Florida, via Chapter 2011-263, Laws of Florida, by expanding the purpose of the Authority to include any airports within the boundaries of Charlotte County and all facilities, real estate and commerce parks within the Authority’s boundaries.
The Airport Authority is an independent special district pursuant to chapter 189, Florida Statutes, and operates in accordance with FAA requirements and guidelines. Chapter 2011-263 and 2013-254 of the Florida State Statutes contain the full text of the enabling legislation for the Charlotte County Airport Authority, an independent special district with no taxing authority.
In 2007 commercial airline service was restored. The Bailey Terminal, named after the Bailey brothers who were all from Punta Gorda and served in the military during WWII and the Korean wars, was expanded in 2015 to accommodate the growing number of passengers traveling in and out of the airport. Charlotte County History Services has provided a public photo exhibit in the hallway adjacent to baggage claim inside the Bailey Terminal.