Make us your home page

New control tower at Hernando airport brings hope for economic development

BROOKSVILLE — In the distant darkness, a flickering light approached on the runway.

Air traffic controller Bill Horner spoke into his headset.

"The wind is calm," Horner said.

Then he cleared the plane for takeoff.

Moments later, the King Air 200 turboprop came fully into view, speeding by on the runway below. It gently lifted off.

With that departure, the Hernando County Airport entered a new era — the era of controlled airspace.

At 7 a.m. Monday, the airport's new air traffic control tower opened. From the vantage point of the 82-foot-tall tower, U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent and County Commissioner Dave Russell watched the historic moment.

As the sky began to lighten, Horner and tower manager Jimmy Mills shuttled back and forth from one screen to another in the control tower, talking on their headsets and approving another takeoff, this one by Jet ICU, an air ambulance company.

Russell reflected on the long road it took to approve and build the tower, which offers "safety and the prospect of economic development and growth."

A pilot himself, he visited the airport several weekends ago and was shocked to see airplanes coming and going in all directions.

"It was just downright frightening," Russell said.

He told the controllers: "We love having you here."

Until Monday, pilots who flew in and out of the airport south of Brooksville had the freedom of coming and going as they pleased. Now, Mills said, "they have to call us and let us know who they are and what they want to do."

Eighty percent of the funding for the $2.25 million tower came from state aviation grants and 20 percent came from money the airport collects from businesses that lease space in the adjacent industrial areas. The five full-time air traffic controllers are employed by Robinson Aviation and will be paid through the Federal Aviation Administration.

The airport, a former World War II airfield with runways capable of handling large jets, is the centerpiece of the county's industrial parks. Nugent said the tower should serve as a catalyst for growth in a county that is trying to diversify its economy.

"It's exciting times," he said. "I go all over this district, and this is a jewel. I know a lot of people would love to have this."

County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes got to see the historic moment from the opposite view of those in the tower. He was one of several local dignitaries who were on the first flight.

Dukes said he hopes the tower offers business and industry something they can't get elsewhere.

"I'm just looking forward to what the future holds for this airport," he said.

Aviation Authority chairman Gary Schraut, who was also on the plane, described the flight as "neat."

"I sat there looking out at the tower, looking at all the work that it took to take us to this day," he said.

He said he believes the payoff will be new and existing business expansion at the airport.

"I think that when they see that the county was willing to make an investment in the airport, maybe they're not afraid to make an investment in the airport as well," he said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

New control tower at Hernando airport brings hope for economic development 10/15/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 15, 2012 10:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations rebound from stronger earnings report


    TAMPA — After a sharp drop in its stock price in August and September, Health Insurance Innovations on Monday announced strong revenue and net income gains in preliminary numbers for its third quarter of the year. The company also announced a $50 million stock buyback over the next two years meant to bolster its …

    After losing more than half its market value between August and September, shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations are rebounding."The new share repurchase program underscores our confidence in our business strategy, financial performance, and the long-term prospects of our company while also allowing us the financial flexibility to continue to invest in our business," company CEO Gavin Southwell announced Monday. [Courtesy of LinkedIn]
  2. Trigaux: Campaign aims to leverage tourism ads to recruit millennials, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay's unleashing one of its best weapons — a cadre of successful entrepreneurs and young business leaders — in a marketing campaign already under way but officially …

    Erin Meagher, founder of Tampa coconut oil products company Beneficial Blends, is part of a group of business savvy millennial entrepreneurs and managers who are helping to pitch the work-live-play merits of the Tampa Bay market in a new marketing campaign called Make It Tampa Bay. The campaign is backed by Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and aimed at recruiting more millennial talent to relocate and stay in the Tampa Bay area. [Courtesy Tampa Hillsborough EDC, Visit Tampa Bay]
  3. Florida gas prices drop 25 cents on average over past month


    Gas prices are on a downward tear post-hurricane. Tampa Bay fell to $2.34 per gallon on Sunday, down 10 cents over the week, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. Across the state, gas fell 7 cents over the same period to average $2.47 per gallon.

    Gas prices across the state fell 25 cents over 31 days. | [Times file photo]
  4. Entrepreneur expands interests with Twisted Crafts


    SOUTH TAMPA — Playgrounds of Tampa owner Mike Addabbo is expanding into the do-it-yourself industry with his new endeavor: Twisted Crafts.

     Jennifer and Michael Addabbo pose in their latest entrepreneurial enterprise: Twisted Crafts. Photo courtesy of Twisted Craft.
  5. Amazing Lash franchise expands to South Tampa


    SOUTH TAMPA — Jeff Tolrud opened the doors to his third Amazing Lash Studio franchise earlier this month, this time in South Tampa.

    When customers walk in, the studios have the same look and feel throughout the country, operator Jeff Tolrud said of Amazing Lash Studio. Tolrud opened his third in Hillsborough County earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Amazing Lash.