Making progress at the airport

Published: Monday, January 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 31, 2006 at 9:46 p.m.
As Gainesville Regional Airport begins a new chapter, it is appropriate to show our appreciation and reflect on the achievements of our departing CEO, Rick Crider, who has served this community well over the past five years.
Crider brought Gainesville Regional Airport to a new level, which resulted in more air service, created new jobs and airline terminal renovations to better serve our community. His efforts to improve the airport and our community deserve our heartfelt thanks.
During his tenure, the Gainesville Regional Airport has enjoyed remarkable success with more commercial air service and the new business cluster on the general aviation side. The following lists some of the highlights: Increased air service: Our airport is currently served by Continental Connection, Delta Connection and US Airways Express. US Airways replaced its turboprop aircraft with all jets in 2004. Delta Connection has begun the transition to replacing its turboprop aircraft with jets as well and expects to operate with all jets by fall 2007. Continental Connection began service to Miami and Tampa in 2004. Currently, the airport has 14 daily scheduled departures with service to Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami and Tampa. The Airport Authority plans to continue to pursue additional service.
New business: In 2003, University Air Center became the fixed base operator (FBO) at the airport, providing a number of services including charter, pilot training, aircraft maintenance and fuel operations. Other new service providers such as Gator Aviation and Southeast Aircraft Charter Inc. and RD Air charter services have also arrived in recent years.
Eclipse Aviation, a new "VLJ" (very light jet) aircraft manufacturer, chose Gainesville Regional Airport for its regional factory service center, currently under construction. The 61,000-square-foot, $11.2-million facility is expected to be complete in March. This new business played a role in attracting a per-seat, on demand air taxi company, DayJet, to open its first DayBase at Gainesville Regional Airport. The new businesses should create more than 200 jobs in east Gainesville, in addition to DayJet's point-to-point air service that is expected to begin in 2007.
Airport Improvements: In 2002, a $1.1 million stormwater improvement project between runway 11-29 and taxiway east was completed in addition to new airfield lighting and signs. The rehabilitation of the general aviation ramp was also completed in 2002. The airport completed a $5.2 million rehabilitation of its primary runway, in August 2004.
The first phase of the Airport terminal building renovation was completed in November 2005, which included adding three new passenger boarding bridges (covered walkways that connect the aircraft to the terminal building) and the renovation of the airside passenger waiting area. The second stage of the terminal renovation will include the enclosure of the open atrium waiting area, additional restrooms, improved food service and administrative areas, and the modernization of the passenger screening area to enhance flow.
The relocation design of the entrance road between the airline passenger terminal and Waldo Road has begun as well. This improvement is designed to separate passenger and commercial service traffic, tie into a long-range state intermodal transportation network, revamp parking and terminal traffic flow, and set the stage for an airport business/commerce park to be located in the southwest quadrant of the airport property.
The Airport Master Plan Update calls for many other short-term and long-term projects such as the integrated air cargo complex and a new air traffic control tower. In various stages of conceptual design are 26 new hangars for private aircraft, a new rental car service facility, a new air taxi terminal development project and a new air cargo facility.
No city or county general fund tax dollars are used for either airport operations or capital projects. Financing is accomplished by federal and state aviation grants, leases and user fees.
Under Rick Crider's leadership the airport advanced to a new level. The Airport Authority and new CEO will have the opportunity to build upon his legacy.
Peter L. Johnson is chair of the Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport Authority.

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