Okaloosa’s Northwest Florida Regional Airport Not Closing

by February 19, 2009 • 3 comments

Apparently Okaloosa’s Northwest Florida Regional Airport is not closing, and Okaloosa Airport officials are getting quite snappy about it.  I’ve heard this very rumor for quite some time and have actually participated in some of the speculation.

Some believe that it all started January of 2008 with the Panama City Beach’s Chamber let out an email blast to members that stated that Eglin Air Force Base would shut down commercial airport operations in order to preserve Eglin’s incoming Joint Strike Fighter mission.  I personally remember the email and thought it quite a bold move, but was unable to substantiate the statement.

Other locals to Panama City and Panama City Beach have been known to question whether the Okaloosa airport would stay open for much longer, including well-known attorney, William Harrison and former Panama City Beach Mayor and local news show host Lee Sullivan.  Recently, Sullivan had Panama City Bay County International Airport Director Randy Curtis on his show and made the comment that in the future Okaloosa would have airspace issues with Eglin that may lead to complications in commercial operations.  Harrison’s opinion is that it is of the best interest of the Florida Panhandle that Eglin’s military and the Joint Strike Fighter mission is of the highest priority.

Currently the Okaloosa County Commission is investigating the possibility of legal action against the Panama City Bay County International Airport and have also supported seeking the resignation of Jerry Ray from Coastal Vision 3000.  Ray is one of the VP’s of St. Joe and a prominent supporter of the New Panama City Airport.

Okaloosa’s Northwest Florida Regional Airport Director Greg Donovan said that they will be launching an advertising campaign to counter the rumors.  Recently the Air Force renewed their lease with Northwest Florida Regional through 2032.

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1 scott February 25, 2009 at 1:26 pm

As a pilot, there was nothing wrong with the current PFN (Panama City) airport. The runway is almost 7000 ft which is standard at most regional airports including much larger towns. The terminal is only 10 years old. Unfortunately, it is the typical lobbying efforts of a company (St. Joe) in trying to get government money to benefit their business. The reality is building an airport doesn’t increase airport business. Planes aren’t going to suddenly appear when there isn’t any aviation business for them. I fly into PFN regularly and the airport is dead. Why? Because panama city is not a rich town and most people don’t fly in or out of it. This is why they want to close VPS. The bay county people are realizing that now that the economy is slow, the airport is going to be a loser unless they get more aviation business. What better way to do it then to close the much busier airport in Okaloosa county. Eglin absolutely doesn’t want VPS to close. Most of the servicemen utilize VPS for travel and many military airports also have commerical hubs. VPS isn’t going anywhere and so now bay county has a new airport with only one runway in the middle of nowhere. As a pilot, it was a stupid move.

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2 FL-Resident-NWF February 25, 2009 at 2:00 pm

What ever happened to verifying the story before publishing. A few phone calls would have prevented all this misinformation.

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3 David Shearon February 27, 2009 at 12:28 am

Scott had good comments. I live in PCB and will be 12 miles away from our new airport. I feel having two airports will lead to competition and hopefully lower rates. I feel Eglin comes first. However, if VPS does not effect the growth and stabilty of Eglin then keep VPS. Lets have price wars between both airports and let the best organized airport win. For Bay County hopefully the new airport will stimulate growth and not be a boondogle

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