Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Zephyrhills officials hope $4 million airport upgrade will boost business

Officials hope improvements at the Zephyrhills airport will attract charters, aviation businesses and small corporate jets.

Times files (2004)

Officials hope improvements at the Zephyrhills airport will attract charters, aviation businesses and small corporate jets.

ZEPHYRHILLS — The city's airport has long been synonymous with skydiving, but city officials hope a multimillion-dollar building program will eventually enhance the airport's image as a hub for corporate clients, charters and other businesses.

About $4 million worth of improvements are planned over the next four years. Crews will start work next month on the largest project — rebuilding the primary runway, a holdover from World War II.

The runway, the biggest of two airstrips at the general aviation facility, once fielded bombers when the airport served as an Army Air Forces base.

"It's still the same runway since the 1940s," airport manager and pilot Mike Handrahan said, adding that outside some minor fixes the strip is essentially unchanged.

Over eight months, crews will rebuild the runway from the ground up — ripping out the landing strip and replacing the base and surface. The remaining runway will remain open.

They'll also install LED lighting to guide pilots, new visual landing aids, more fencing around the airport's perimeter — some fencing was added this year — and new gates and cameras before turning to an unused taxiway to make it functional again. Most of the funding will come from state and federal grants. The city approved about $500,000 last summer.

Though officials insist the improvements are sorely needed now, they also say they hope the work yields a long-term payoff in the form of increased tenants and activity. The airport handles about 50,000 takeoffs and landings yearly, Handrahan said.

Officials years ago talked about luring FedEx or UPS but have since scaled back those aims, pushing for charters, aviation-related businesses and possibly small corporate jets.

Even that would represent a boost from the existing clientele of mostly general aviation pilots and skydiving enthusiasts, who flock to Zephyrhills in huge numbers.

"As with any business we hope to attract new customers," Handrahan said.

City Manager Jim Drumm said the airport has recently added more hangars to store planes, which has helped draw recreational and corporate clients.

"I think we'll see more jet traffic," he said, referring to the pending improvements. "And we're excited about Raymond James and what they may bring in terms of corporate business."

The Pinellas-based financial services company said it plans to open an office in south Pasco.

Talk of the improvements has already produced results. An FAA-certified international flight-training school is poised to open early next year with 10 aircraft and three helicopters.

"The improvement of the runway is really important. It will let us use a bigger airplane, as well as having better lighting to help with training," said Jhon Rozo, owner of Rotors of America, which is set to launch in January or February.

Not everyone is optimistic, though. T.K. Hayes, co-owner and general manager of Skydive City, cited improvements at other airfields that failed to boost clientele.

"As an aviation enthusiast I think it's great. As a taxpayer, I think it's a pipe dream," he said.

Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

Zephyrhills officials hope $4 million airport upgrade will boost business 12/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 7:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New 'cantina-style' Taco Bells to serve alcohol, ditch drive-thrus by 2022

    Business

    Taco Bell is ditching drive-thrus and adding alcohol.

    Taco Bell plans to open more than 300 "cantina style" stores across the country that ditches the drive-thru and adds alcohol. [Times Files]
  2. Late Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella was a fighter until the end

    Swimming Preps

    At swim meets, Cailin Cannella would race side-by-side with her breastroke competitors, their heads bobbing in near unison.

    Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella, here at age 13, still was practicing last year after finding out she had osteosarcoma (bone cancer). [Times 2016]
  3. Gators roundtable: Was that really a Hail Mary?

    College

    Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks' last-second heave beat Tennessee Saturday in Gainesville, but was it a Hail Mary, typically a pass made in desperation with little chance of success? The Times' college football coveage team weighs in:

    NO, BUT IT WAS A MIRACLE

    Feleipe Franks #13 of the Florida Gators celebrates with his teammates after he threw a 63-yard pass at the end of the game to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 26-20 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
  4. Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection

    Columns

    Everyone ends up with a favorite

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, however, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]
  5. Tonight: St. Petersburg's six City Council candidates face off

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — Politics took a break in Hurricane Irma, but now it's time for City Council races to get going. The Council of Neighborhood Associations is set to host a candidate forum for the six candidates vying for three council seats at stake in November.