New Airport gets New Call Letters, Bye Bye PFN

by January 14, 2010 • 17 comments
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The Federal Aviation Administration has assigned a new three-letter identifier to the new Northwest Florida Beaches International airport now under construction in West Bay, Florida.

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport’s three-letter location identifier will be “ECP” when the airport opens in May 2010.

The new airport is replacing Panama City – Bay County International Airport, whose three-letter identifier is “PFN.”

Location identifiers are not interchangeable and cannot be transferred from one location to another or from one airport to another even within the same community. In fact, the first and second letters or second and third letters or third and first letters of a three-letter identifier may not be duplicated with less than 200 nautical miles separation.

“The FAA’s awarding of our new location identifier is another important step in our process to open Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in May,” said Airport Authority Chairman Joe Tannehill.

Construction of the new Northwest Florida Beaches International is 80 percent complete and on track for an opening date of May 23, 2010.

Click here to read more about the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.

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1 Don Heckman January 14, 2010 at 9:23 am

The portion of your story that states that “Location identifiers are not interchangeable and cannot be transferred from one location to another” is not exactly correct. I lived in Denver when they closed the old Stapleton airport and then on the same day opened the new airport about 20 miles away on the eastern plains of Colorado. They kept the same DEN designation.

That said, I think the new ECP designation is very good. ECG = Emerald Coast Portal. I can see this being used extensively. Effectively renaming the new airport.

Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia about that move and how it was accomplished. FYI.

“A Continental Airlines flight, with a destination of London Gatwick, was the last flight to depart Stapleton. The airport was then shut down on that same day, February 27, 1995. A convoy of vehicles of many kinds (rental cars, baggage carts, fuel trucks, etc.) began their journey over to the new DIA, which officially opened for all operations, the next morning. The runways at Stapleton were then adorned with large yellow “Xs,” which indicated it was not legal or safe for any aircraft to land there anymore. The aeronautical chart airport codes of DEN and KDEN were then transferred to the new DIA, to coincide with the same changes in airline and ATC computers, to ensure all flights to Denver would land at the new DIA.”


2 Robecca January 14, 2010 at 9:51 am

Would someone clarify the actual FAA name for the new airport? I notice it being called by several different names. Just for the record what’s the OFFICIAL FAA NAME?????


3 Paul Cannefax January 14, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Is ECP owned and operated by Bay County? Or Panama City? What is going to happen to the Panama City Airport? I heard that it will be for GA. Any idea???? Bet ya they name gets changed. Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport man that is a mouth full.


4 James D. January 15, 2010 at 12:24 am

I’m sure all the “Fly VPS” advertisements airing on WJHG newscasts have only added to the confusion. (VPS is the identifier for Northwest Florida Regional Airport in Okaloosa County) For anyone who still isn’t “in the know” about the new airport here in Bay County, the ads create a degree of uncertainty since they are heavily promoting a “Northwest Florida ******** Airport”.


5 Don Heckman January 15, 2010 at 6:31 am

VPS, Okaloosa, Fort Walton Beach, and Northwest Florida Regional Airport are all the same thing (I may have missed a few names here as well.) It seems to me that this just sets the precedent that we can call the airport anything we want. As with most people Emerald Coast Beaches Airport would have been my favorite. Let’s just use the new ECP designation as carte blanche to use the name that the overwhelming majority would like it to be. The official name can be as it is but in advertisements the airport should bill itself they like.

As another commenter stated they are already doing this. Whether this is to muddy the waters or just as a smart media campaign, I will leave that to others to decide.


6 John January 15, 2010 at 9:58 am

PCB would have been a better choice and it’s available.


7 Julie May 18, 2010 at 2:13 pm

PCB is taken… it is the code for PONDOK CABE, INDONESIA


8 Chris January 16, 2010 at 10:13 am

It was not dumb luck that ECP was picked as the designator for the new Airport in PCB. At some point, Emerad Coast International in Panama City Beach (i.e. ECP) was the choice for the new name of the Airport.

My guess is due to some political wrangling (i.e. follow the money trail), some other area outside of PCB decided having PCB in the name was too much of a draw of visitors away from their area. We’ve also heard of the “legal” reasons Emeral Coast was dumped in favor of Northwest Florida Beaches. I personally have never bought this.

Jason, it would be good to hear what you’ve heard about the choice of ECP for the new PCB Airport.


9 Curtis Faulk January 19, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Does anyone know when Southwest will be accepting reservations into the airport?


10 Rob January 19, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Why not NFB (Northwest Florida Beaches)?

There must be money or politics somewhere.

PCB would have been the good alternate choice — but again — there must be a reason!


11 jobeibi January 21, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Paul Cannefax
“Is ECP owned and operated by Bay County? Or Panama City?”
It is owned by the Bay County Airport Authority, which is a separate entity from either the city or the county.

“What is going to happen to the Panama City Airport? I heard that it will be for GA. Any idea????”
The property has been sold to a developer which plans to build a neighborhood there. What do you mean by “GA”?


12 Shannon January 22, 2010 at 8:48 pm

“What do you mean by “GA”?”

General Aviation


13 Brian W. January 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm

The existing airport has been sold to a developer out of Pittsburg, PA. It will be residential and some commercial apparently.


14 john A. January 24, 2010 at 11:16 am

I Will be travelling to PCB in Late may and want to fly into the new airport. When I looked on line to book tickets, the new airport designation ECP could not be found. Does anyone know how I can book a flight into the new airport?


15 Dude January 26, 2010 at 4:42 pm

^^^^^^ That’s what I would like to know. I’ve tried priceline, expedia and all of the travel websites but can’t seem to find the new airport on these sites to book a flight.


16 jobeibi February 4, 2010 at 12:36 pm

John & Dude,

You probably already figured this out, but I checked anyway.

If you type in Panama City, FL on Expedia, they will ask you to choose PFN or ECP. If you select PFN for a flight date after the changeover, you will be given quotes for flights to ECP instead.


17 Dan Wygant July 3, 2010 at 8:15 pm

They (ECP) are green (LEED) and they are the first since 9/11
To read about how they have wrangled with environmentalists to provide 41000 acre of protected land at

This is an awesome thing they did.
Also last I heard because Panama City Beach is on what locals call “the tongue of the Gulf”, a deepwater tongue, and other beaches (Laguna Beach specifically) are indented sort of into the coast, that they are doubley protected both from Hurricane damage, and currently from the flotsam of the giant oil spill.

So where coastal areas east (Mexico Beach) and west (Destin) of PCB are getting oily beaches, we will not here in Lauguna Beach especially. Not just that, but we’ve got a real beach in Laguna Beach which acts as a wind wall and keeps the places on the other side of front-beach-98 from getting hit too hard. Even when PCB got hit in the 70’s, Laguna Beach was almost unscathed. I remeber it! Crap spread everywhere (almost 40 years ago) and our place just had lots of sea stuff washed up – very very interesting all the stuff thrown all the way up to the natural dune wall.

I’m very respectful of the conservation efforts for turtles and the enourmous amount of life in the areas around West Bay. Keep on supporting your wild life and respect nature. We have children and soon more decendents who will have to live here, and lets make it possible to see the existing beauty of local nature!

Dan Wygant, one of the conservationists who love wild-Florida