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.