Read the Nov. 15, 2023 edition of the Daily Sun.
Punta Gorda Tower Receives National Recognition
PUNTA GORDA, FL (June 22, 2023) – Punta Gorda Airport’s Air Traffic Control Tower was recently named Robinson Aviation (RVA), Inc.’s Facility of the Year for 2022. RVA, celebrating 36 years in the aviation business, operates air traffic control towers at 102 airports across the southeast and southern United States for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Annually the company recognizes one control tower operation as its Facility of the Year.
George Harper, PGD’s Tower Manager, was thrilled to receive the award after receiving it in 2019. “It is an extremely rare event to repeat an award like this in such a short period of time. It would never have happened without the outstanding team this airport has,” said Harper.
In 2022, Harper and his team handled 86,539 takeoffs and landings, including 10,085 Allegiant A320 operations, special event/tours/photography requests, and challenges associated with airfield construction projects. With nearly 400 based aircraft including five flights schools, the PGD Tower guides a diverse group of pilots with confidence, kindness, and efficiency.
PGD’s Tower was honored for going above and beyond just providing excellent air traffic control services. PGD Tower staff attend local EAA chapter meetings to provide pilots with one-on-one insight and answers to questions they cannot ask on the radio. PGD Tower staff also talk with the Young Eagle Scouts from the local Civil Air Patrol program, attend airport construction meetings, tenant information meetings, neighborhood resident meetings, etc.
Stephen L. Smith, Vice President of RVA’s FAA Contract Tower Program (FCT), noted that RVA contract controllers work tirelessly to maintain the highest standards of the air traffic control system’s effectiveness, safety, and quality. Each year, RVA recognizes the “best of the best.”
“This considers a number of variables, including but not limited to safety, customer satisfaction, external relations, and operational audit findings,” Smith said. “PGD proved in 2022 that they offered the greatest air traffic services to protect people, property and public services.”
After Hurricane Ian ravaged the area in late September, PGD’s Tower was once again the first to open in the region. Allegiant operations were able to resume just five days after the Hurricane Ian passed. The PGD Air Center became a base for the local hurricane recovery effort, hosting the state CFO, the Governor, CCSO, DHS, FEMA, the Coast Guard, Army Reserve, CBP, FDLE, Hillsborough County, Palm Beach County, USAF, Seminole Tribe operations and dozens of companies.
PGD Tower staff directed about 800 recovery operations in the 12 days following September 29, 2022. This effective response was due to the commitment of the PGD Tower staff to reopen as soon as possible. As soon as Ian passed, staff began to assess damage and assist with ground operations while systems were brought back online. In fact, PGD Tower staff, who all suffered damage to their own homes, came to the airport without knowing if they would be able to obtain fuel to make it home each day.
“PGD’s Tower staff selflessly puts the ATC mission before their own needs and raises the bar in customer service excellence and professionalism,” said PGD’s CEO James W. Parish. “This team has performed great work in challenging conditions this last year, and every year since starting operations in 2012. The PGD Tower staff deserves recognition for their outstanding service,” said Parish.
PGD’s commercial passenger count surpassed 1.8 million in 2022 and is poised for continued growth. PGD’s tenants, transient flights, airline crews, and RSW Approach Control, continue to complement PGD’s top-notch tower staff year after year. Airport staff distributes the Tower’s annual “User Satisfaction Survey” through its website and capture responses electronically. This enhanced participation and further bolstered the integrity of the scoring received. Beyond near-perfect scoring, dozens of additional pilots provided written testimonies and positive praise.
NOTE – RVA’s senior management, President Keren Mclendon (left) and VP Stephen Smith (right), presented Tower Manager George Harper with the award on Nov. 9, 2023.