AOPA President Phil Boyer and St.
Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker held an extremely productive
meeting on the future of Albert Whitted Airport (SPG) and ways the
association can help the city, on Wednesday.
"Mayor Baker is a good politician, and he recognizes that the
voters have spoken," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "He is
committed to turning Albert Whitted Airport into a world-class
general aviation facility that will be a focal point for the
"And as we committed AOPA resources to save the airport, we'll
now work hand-in-hand with the city to improve it."
The mayor took two steps the day after the airport vote that
clearly showed his commitment to carry through on the voters'
mandate. He hired a professional airport manager to run Albert
Whitted, and he withdrew his compromise proposal to close one of
the runways and use some of that land for development.
Boyer said, "In the mayor's words, he wants to take the rough
stone that is Albert Whitted today and turn it into a fine gem. And
he wants to be sure that it remains the community's airport."
Long-range plans include adding a terminal and possibly
developing an on-airport restaurant that would give the broader
community a reason to come down to the waterfront and make use of
the airport. His master plan includes integrating the airport,
marina, and a sports arena to create a community center on the
In the short term, the airport infrastructure needs immediate
attention, including runway and taxiway maintenance and repainting
a number of the hangars.
Baker told Boyer that he plans to pursue commitments for funding
from the Florida Department of Transportation and, now that the
voters have approved accepting 20-year federal grants, wants to go
after FAA Airport Improvement Program funds.
"That's an area where AOPA can be a real partner with St.
Petersburg," said Boyer. "Through our extensive contacts with the
FAA and our long history of working to preserve airports, the
association understands the ins and outs of AIP grant
"Mayor Baker and I met for over an hour. His enthusiasm for
improving the airport was obvious. I walked out of there with a
real sense that not only the pilot community, but all of St.
Petersburg have come out winners."