James Parish Named FAA’s Airport Manager of the Year

Punta Gorda Airport’s James Parish Named 2021 Air Carrier Airport Manager of the Year by the Federal Aviation Administration

PUNTA GORDA, FL (June 29, 2022) – The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Southern Region Airports Division named James W. Parish, P.E., CEO of the Charlotte County Airport Authority (CCAA) and Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), the 2021 Air Carrier Airport Manager of the Year. This award is given to an airport professional who exemplifies excellence in airport management, demonstrates exceptional leadership, tirelessly works to promote the aviation industry and has achieved efficiencies and improved productivity in their organization.

Parish was honored for his exceptional strategic leadership in growing air service while also making PGD key to the future of aviation workforce development. Through master planning and development efforts, James has been instrumental in growing the number of commercial airline pilots and A&P certified aircraft mechanics that are trained here at PGD.

“This is definitely a team award, as our airport stakeholders are working together to increase airline destinations amidst the growing shortage of aviation professionals,” said PGD’s CEO James W. Parish, P.E. “Thanks to our small but resilient staff, and our forward-thinking CCAA Board, we can close the gap by welcoming new airport partners and strengthening the fabric of the entire southwest Florida region.”

Parish and his team thoughtfully mapped out continued growth in commercial air service by relocating existing general aviation and FBO activities to the new PGD Air Center in the airport’s Aviation Expansion Area (PGD AviEx) on the north side. This will relieve congestion in the Bailey Terminal area and allow more room for airline aircraft.

With designs for new box hangars and T-Hangars are already in place, Parish envisioned the PGD AviEx to become an economic development hub, and a home to new flight schools and aviation maintenance facilities. Leveraging the success of onsite commercial flight schools Flight Fast Track and AeroGuard Flight Training Center, PGD attracted new commercial flight schools Jet Access Flight Training and Paragon Flight Training to become tenants of the PGD Air Center opening this Fall.

Charlotte Technical College (CTC) opened its FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) School at PGD in August 2021. Parish was not only integral in helping CTC secure its initial space at PGD, he and the CCAA Board advocated for and were notified of $3 million approved in the Florida State Budget for a larger facility. The AMT School’s new location in the PGD AviEx is intended to facilitate on-the-job training, accommodate growing enrollment and keep tuition affordable for students.

Under Parish’s leadership, and with the CARES Act Airport Grants, the CCAA retained a strong financial position despite the most unpredictable circumstances. The CCAA achieved a 27% operating margin and maintained cash reserves of $30+ million in Fiscal 2020-21.

Parish is dedicated to continuing PGD’s low-cost airport model that is attractive to airlines like Sun Country and Allegiant that serve 50+ destinations, while also retaining a strong general aviation and on-airport business community.

The CCAA’s ongoing $200-million+ Capital Improvement Program also includes completion of the new PGD Air Center, Runway 4-22 reconstruction, Runway 9-27 rehabilitation, new hangars, taxiway and taxilane improvements, and road network improvements along with planned expansion of the Bailey Terminal.

Parish was named the “Aviation Professional of the Year” in 2017 by the Florida Department of Transportation and serves on the boards of the Florida Airports Council, Charlotte County Economic Development Partnership, Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce and Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce.  He is a Leadership Charlotte Class of 2019 Alumni and a member of Leadership Florida’s Cornerstone Class of 2020-21.

Other significant accomplishments in the 2020-21 Fiscal Year:

  • Parish and his team led passenger-centric improvements to enhance airline customers’ experiences, including:
    • Negotiated an agreement to become the third airport in Florida where Turo customers can drop off and pick up cars in a way that’s efficient, safe, and airport-approved.
    • Completed construction of 1,000 new long-term parking spaces with color-coded gate canopies, color-coded directional signage and animated LED airport entrance sign to improve wayfinding.
    • Partnered with a local artist and the Visitor & Convention Bureau to create three new tropical, eco-tourism-themed photo op spots at the Bailey Terminal.
    • Partnered with the Bailey Terminal concessionaire to add a new 40-seat bar with runway views for post-security passengers waiting to depart.

The FAA Southern Region Airports Division oversees airport planning, environmental, compliance, design and safety programs for airports located in the southeastern United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

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