Florida Airport Hoping to Land Control Tower

Charlotte County Airport is looking to the state to fund a control tower that officials hope would one day open the small airport to a commercial airline.

The airport needs the tower for safety and to expand, Charlotte County Airport Authority members said. It would cost about $1.2 million, said Gary Quill, the airport's executive director.

Charlotte County Airport is the site of about 80,000 takeoffs and landings per year, Quill said. The control tower would help the facility come closer to its capacity of more than 200,000 takeoffs and landings per year.

"There are restrictions on aircraft flying into non-towered airports, so there would be an increase on the amount of traffic," Quill said.

State Rep. Michael Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican who formerly served on the airport authority, said funding the airport is a priority for Charlotte's legislators during this year's session, which begins March 7 in Tallahassee.

The tower would allow the airport to host an air traffic controller education program, Grant said.

"They've been working with Edison College over the last few years about doing some training, and having that tower would certainly enhance that," he said.

Charlotte County Airport, which opened during World War II as a training base, is on Airport Road east of Punta Gorda.

Plans for the airport property include a building to house the Military Heritage and Aviation Museum. The airport has also been working on a new lease with FedEx, where the company plans to expand to a 25,000-square-foot building.

The tower project has been in the works for a few years, but was dealt a setback by Hurricane Charley, which took a heavy toll on the airport.

If the state provides enough money to build the control tower, the airport will still need Federal Aviation Administration approval.

That means the tower could easily be 18 months from opening, Quill said.

Airport Authority members say hosting a commercial airline would be unsafe without a control tower.

Airport Authority member Gary Stasko described the current safety situation at the airport as "everybody's on their own, watch out for the other guy."

That's not good enough, said airport commissioner Pam Seay.

"Keeping safety in the air for flying pilots, keeping safety on the ground for taxiing pilots, is essential," she said.

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