Local leaders point to bright future for airport

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By Alice Du Pont

The future of the Quincy-Gadsden Municipal Airport Authority is bright, according to a report given by Peter Green, consultant with the airport consulting firm of URS based in Tampa.

"We're ahead of the curve in generating more activity than the state predicted. We have 50 aircraft based here, which opens up all kinds of opportunities for us because that's what the (Florida) Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration look at when deciding how to allocate funds," Green said.

On Monday afternoon, the final inspection of the new 10 hangar facility was completed. Outgoing authority chairman Don Sirman said there is a waiting list of 30 airplane owners who want to rent the hangars. With the additional hangars, the authority answered the requests for more hangers from 40 percent of the people who use the facility.

Other improvement suggestions included relocation of power lines, paved taxiway, paved tie-down facility, flood lights, video recorders in hangar areas for security and removal of trees from runway approaches. Green said all of the suggestions will be considered and addressed as funds become available.

Several improvements were made recently at the airport. which include a new security gate at the entrance and fences, a new rotating beacon and relocation of the the wind sock, additionally a storm water master plan was approved and a wetland mitigation alternative study was completed. The terminal building has also been renovated and expanded.

The airport serves the general aviation needs of Quincy and the county as well as supporting sport and recreational flying, flight training, sky diving, itinerant operations and some business flights.

Green explained that future plans call for airport development expansion on the east, west and north general aviation areas. To expand to the north, the authority will need to purchase property that is currently not on the market. Sirmans said the funds have been set aside to acquire the property if the owner decides to sell.

There are also plans to pave the old C & E Farm Road and turn it into a paved taxiway access to the runway. The road will be moved further west. All of the capital projects funding, according to Green, will come from FDOT and the FAA.

"We get between $300,000 and $500,000 annually but there are state budget issues this year constraining funds for the aviation program but we do expect to get that money. We'll also get $150,000 per year from the FAA's small Florida and Georgia entitlement program. That's not likely to change because that amount is pretty much set by the federal government," Green said.

In the past, the airport authority was given city and county funds to help operate the facility. In recent years, however, no local funds have been given but the law requires the three entities to hold a joint meeting annually.

Green said the key to the success of the airport is for the city, county, FDOT and the FAA to continue working together.