UPDATE: New Airport On Time and On Budget

Monday was Walton County Day and the Northwest Florida Panama City International Airport hosted the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce board meeting under a tent with the new terminal as the backdrop.  Of course, one of the cool things about events like this is that we usually get a pretty good update on how the construction is coming along at the new airport site.

Randy Curtis, the Airport’s Executive Director, explained that the construction was “on time and on budget,” citing that “we are our own stimulus plan employing 300 to 400 workers.”

The main runway is currently 8,400 feet and it 100% complete, lights, distance markers and all.  When the airport opens the main runway will be 10,000 feet; the final 1,600 feet is pending FAA approval.  I was told that the delay on this may be attributed to the environmental challenges the new airport site has had regarding retaining grass structure that helps with the waterflow on the property. The entire airport is now 75% complete.

Curtis also talked briefly about the $4 million grant the airport received for the new state-of-the-art baggage and security system that will be placed within the terminal.  In a previous article by Cebo, he quoted Steve Earnest, Federal Security Director: “This technology will strengthen security and streamline the baggage screening process.” He added, “This baggage handling system will better enable Panama City-Bay County International Airport to detect explosives and other threats while allowing for the growth of the new airport.”  Cebo goes on to say, “What this means for you is a faster, safer and more efficient Checkin process. . .  It will be the most up to date, efficient system in America.”

Currently the immigration and customs services at the existing airport operate out of Port Panama City, but at the new airport, the ICE will have their own onsite facility.

When asked, Curtis explained that the existing runway at the current airport is a mere 6,300 feet.  He said that planes of today’s sophistication have trouble taking off and landing at this length.  He explained that 10,000 feet will accommodate planes of almost every size and that in the plans of the main runway the entire length will be 12,000 feet, capable of accepting the largest of the wide-bodied cargo planes.

Initially the terminal will be capable of having 7 gates with the capability to quickly expand to 14 gates when demand dictates expansion.  The total footprint of the airport site is 4,000 acres which is a huge increase over the existing site which is around 700 acres.  The footprint of the current development at the new airport site is around 1,500 acres.  The unused space is to ensure that there is plenty of room for expansion in the future.  Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport is around 4,000 acres.

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