Sunday, February 18, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando airport's potential noted as work begins on master plan

BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport is poised to continue to grow because of its mix of features.

Those include a 7,000-foot runway, a control tower and a technology center, the new name for the industrial, rail and corporate parks attached to the facility.

That was the message delivered last week by planners hired to help draw the airport's road map for the next two decades. The planners were speaking to a newly formed technical advisory committee to the county's Aviation Authority that, over the next year, will write the airport's master plan for 2015-35.

"It's really an exciting time for us,'' said airport manager Kevin Daugherty.

Just six months in the job, Daugherty called himself the "new kid'' and said the planning process will be a good tool for him to learn more about the airport and the community.

The committee is a mix of airport, county, military and aviation interests and includes two of the county's assistant administrators — Russ Wetherington and Brian Malmberg.

Also on the committee is a representative from the Florida Department of Transportation, which along with the Federal Aviation Administration provides much of the funding for capital projects at the airport.

That funding is tied directly to the master plan, Philip Jufko told the committee. Jufko is the project manager on the master plan from Michael Baker Jr. Inc., the company hired to assist with the plan.

"If it isn't on the airport plan, it doesn't get funded,'' Jufko said.

The DOT and FAA will also have to sign off on the draft of the plan when it nears completion, with the County Commission having the final say.

Jufko explained the planning process and noted that the public will have an opportunity to have input along the way. An open house will also be scheduled in the fall to provide residents a chance to see the document and materials concerning the planning process, and the related documents will be posted on the airport's website in the next few weeks.

The master plan covers all aspects of future use at the airport, including entrances and exits, signage, lighting, aviation safety equipment, traffic patterns, where to put hangars and how to handle wildlife issues on the property. A separate survey of wildlife is ongoing. At the same time, Jufko said, he is helping to develop a business plan for the airport, which will include a marketing component.

Planning each aspect of the airport's development allows the airport to systematically make improvements over a period of time, he explained.

Also included in the process is a forecast for growth, ranging from the number of jets based at the airport to the number of operations — takeoffs and landings — recorded by the air traffic control tower.

"This is a snapshot in time for us,'' Jufko said of the forecast. Something as simple as opening a flight school, which several of the businesses on the airport have discussed, would mean a big change in the numbers, he noted.

Jufko's company was hired late last year. The first phase of its work involved making sure it had a handle on what presently exists at the airport.

That has changed since the last plan was completed about a decade ago. Among the additions: the control tower, a second fixed-base operator and numerous new tenants in the industrial areas.

One of the members of the advisory committee is former Aviation Authority member and airport critic David Lemon. He questioned whether the new plan would have any more buy-in by the airport and the county than the old plan, which he said hasn't been followed.

Lemon noted that with airport activity now being monitored by the control tower, "I would expect that the next iteration (of the master plan) will be more accurate. … I'm looking forward to a better master plan.''

The document is set for completion in May 2015.

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