Board Guest Column: The Daily Sun

Paul Andrews is a Charlotte County Airport Authority Commissioner. Column provided to the Charlotte Sun. 

What Punta Gorda Airport Can & Can’t Do

Paul Andrews

Airport Authority Commissioner Paul Andrews

PUNTA GORDA (May 16, 2022) – As one of your fellow Charlotte County neighbors, a licensed aircraft mechanic, Flight Engineer and pilot, with over 30 years of combined military and airline experience and a local Realtor, I have a vested interest in the future of Punta Gorda Airport (PGD).  I also serve on the Charlotte County Airport Authority, so I’d like to take this opportunity to share insight into what the Airport Authority’s role is, and what it can and can’t do within its authority.

The Airport Authority is responsible for maintaining airport runways, taxiways and the airfield pavement used by aircraft, as well as all airport-owned facilities that are accessed on the ground.  However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has complete control over all airspace above the United States and its Territories. Neither the Charlotte County Airport Authority Board nor staff has any legal authority to mandate specific flight paths.

PGD’s FAA-approved Master Plan Update outlines necessary capital improvement projects, such as the reconstruction of the main commercial Runway 4-22, which was built in the 1940s. Once the project is completed at the end of 2022, commercial airliners will return to primarily using Runway 4-22  in 2023. Airline and other commercial pilots prefer Runway 4-22 because it has the best windage, is longer, and provides for instrument landings.  These procedures are directed by the FAA and Air Traffic Control Tower.  However, airline pilots may also continue using Runway 15-33 when Runway 4-22 is unavailable in the future due to air traffic or weather conditions.

While Allegiant and Sun Country don’t regularly schedule flights beyond the 11 p.m. hour, occasionally flights do come in after midnight.  This could be due to enroute weather delays, for example, so there could be a planeload of passengers arriving later than planned, or it could be a plane getting repositioned into PGD for a morning departure the following day.

The Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA) of 1990 enacted by the FAA does not allow airports to limit timing of aircraft operations and made it very difficult for airports to impose mandatory restrictions, however, it did require a substantial reduction in noise by aircraft manufacturers.  As such, Charlotte County Airport Authority worked with Allegiant to become the first Airbus A320 base in 2018, a fleet of planes which is much quieter than the previous MD-80 aircraft.

Because PGD is an airport for many types of aircraft operators who engage in interstate commerce (commercial transportation between states), it falls into same category as Interstate I-75. The Airport Authority is not allowed to put time limits on when that traveling commerce will occur.

Since the Airport Authority can’t control flight paths or timing of aircraft, what can we do?  We can ask pilots to abide by recommended and voluntary noise abatement procedures.  We partner with general aviation pilots, business users and commercial airlines to make them aware of noise sensitive communities, but we do not control the airspace and there are limits to where pilots can fly.

Visually, from above, the approach path looks like a cone with the runway being the point. As a result, the closer you are to the airport, the more consistent the flight paths are. Additionally, the FAA requires pilots to be on, what is known as, a “stabilized approach path” when landing. To make a stabilized approach the pilot will minimize wing movement and obtain a steady rate of decent. In other words, a plane cannot make a significant turn just before landing, nor can it suddenly lose altitude just before touchdown.

As our population grows, more of our residents are taking notice of the fight paths and surrounding development.  That’s why the Airport Authority has secured avigation easements with surrounding developers in the past and will continue to do so in the future (as Jones Loop LLC has recently agreed to).   For example, we have existing avigation easement agreements with TAG Creekside LLC, Ventura Lakes, “through-the-fence” condo hangars, Florida Lakes, Woodland Estates, Cheney Brothers site, Jail Site, and adjacent Publix-owned property.

We understand our neighbors are watching PGD closely, and we encourage the public to attend our monthly Airport Authority Board Meetings, watch them on YouTube and stay engaged.  Simply visit the “Meetings, Agendas & Minutes” link on the homepage to stay updated with Airport Authority business and the planning process.