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CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. – Charlotte County is literally flying into the future. Cities like Punta Gorda, are going through big changes, thanks to the aviation industry.

NBC2’s Claire Lavezzorio is giving us a bird’s eye view of the changes from a four-seater flown by flight instructor Daniel Vasilyev. The young pilot is a part of a small group of commercial pilots in training who call PGD their hub, through a partnership with AeroGuard.

“It’s a great opportunity. Boeing is expecting 800,000 pilots are going to be needed over the next 20 years; 200,000 of those here in the US,” said James Constable, AeroGuard’s chief marketing officer.

After takeoff, we were able to see one clear sign of the aviation industry’s impact on the county: Allegiant’s Sunseeker Resort along Charlotte Harbor.

It’s expected to be completed by next Spring and bring in 300,000 visitors every year, which of course, will have an impact on passenger travel through PGD.

In 2010, the airport saw just over 182,000 passengers. In 2019, passenger numbers shattered 1.6 million.

But will Allegiant continue to be PGD’s sole provider? Kaley Miller, communications manager at the airport, said that could change. “We’re always looking for another airline. We talk to airlines regularly and invite them to come to our airport to see what it’s like,” said Miller.

While the airport wants to stick to its low-cost model, it is spending money on runway renovations and a new 50-seat restaurant inside the departure area, with more changes likely in the near future.

“It’s the only one that flies direct, so we really only use this airport,” said Debbie Smith, as she waited for her family to arrive from Harrisburg, PA.

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