Agency Gives "Stamp Of Approval" For Relocation To West
On Friday the FAA awarded a $72 million federal Airport
Improvement Program grant, and the lucky winner was -- the Panama
City-Bay Count International Airport, FL, allowing it to move
forward with its relocation to West Bay, reported the News
The reason for the move, as ANN had reported, is that Bay
County's 6,300 foot runway is one of the shortest in use by
commercial aircraft in Florida. And it won't be getting any longer
at its current location because expansion would significantly
encroach on established neighborhoods and surrounding wetlands.
Said Manager of the FAA's airports division Robert Chapman, "In
conducting its funding analysis, FAA determined that both physical
and environmental restrictions at the existing site make it
impractical and extremely costly to update to meet FAA standards.
Even if FAA were to upgrade the existing site, it would still not
result in an airfield that fully complied with FAA standards."
Friday's grant announcement was greeted with approval.
"This funding is a stamp of approval by the FAA," US Senator
(D-FL) Bill Nelson, a supporter of a new airport for the region,
said. "This is good news for all of Northwest Florida."
"This is long-awaited funding that will help the Panama City-Bay
County Airport Authority as they work on plans for the first phase
of airport construction," US Rep. (D-Monticello) Allen Boyd
Boyd's office said the FAA projects a discretionary grant
payment stream of $25 million this fiscal year, $27 million in
fiscal year 2008, which begins October 1, $15 million in fiscal
year 2009 and $5 million in fiscal year 2010.
Airport Executive Director Randy Curtis and Airport Authority
Chairman Joe Tannehill held a news conference Friday afternoon
about the grant.
"The ship is heading into the port in the right way," Tannehill
said, using a non-aviation metaphor.
"It's been a very positive week," Curtis said.
The funding "is contingent on the Airport District meeting all
statutory and administrative requirements," Chapman said, including
the issuance of a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit for the
project by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The permit takes into
account the impact on wetlands."
Tannehill and Curtis said the permit would come next month, just
as the board is dealing with bids for the first half of
construction of the new airport.
The $331 million relocation project will be funded in thirds by
state grants, federal grants, and the sale of the current airport
The 4,000-acre West Bay site was donated by The St. Joe Company,
a publicly-held real estate operating company based in
The move to the 4,000-acre site is expected to be finished by
2009, and according to Nelson's office, the new airport will be
able to handle international flights and even the giant Airbus