Panama City-Bay County Airport To Open In 2009
It will be the first commercial airport built since 9/11... in
fact, the new Panama City-Bay County International Airport,
scheduled to open by 2010, will be the first such airfield built in
10 years. The government recently gave the final OK for
construction to begin.
"We hope to be in operation by late 2009 or early 2010," Randy
Curtis, the airport's executive director, told the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution. Construction could begin next month, he
As ANN reported, the FAA
awarded a $72 million federal Airport Improvement Program grant for
the facility in May, giving its OK to relocate the existing
airport. Late last week, the US Army Corps of Engineers signed off
on the project, issuing the final permit for construction to
Proponents of the new airport say reason for the move is obvious
-- the 6,300 foot runway at the current Bay County International
(PFN) is one of the shortest in use by commercial aircraft in
And it won't be getting any longer at its current location,
because expansion would significantly encroach on established
neighborhoods and surrounding wetlands. The runways at PFN, which
is located on a bay, also tends to flood whenever a large storm
Relocating the airport to a larger area had the support of local
politicians, as well as the St. Joe Co., which donated 4,000 acres
of once-timberland for the new facility.
Environmentalists opposed the move, as did many Bay County
residents... due to what they called the resulting burden on
taxpayers, and the need for many of them to drive a much longer
distance to catch a flight. They also say a new facility isn't
needed, due to declining airline traffic at the present
Voters showed their disapproval in a non-binding referendum
three years ago.
"It is $300 million-plus of pure pork, and everybody with a big
enough fork is ready to dig in -- St. Joe is at the head of the
table," said resident Don Hodges.
Bay County officials countered a new facility would bring more
frequent flights -- using larger planes than the regional jets that
service the current airport -- to the popular resort area, located
in the Florida panhandle. Increased competition could lead to lower
airfares, they added.
The last commercial airport to be built in the United States was
the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, which opened near
Fayetteville in late 1998.