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. Pinellas detectives investigating shooting that led to car crash

    Public Safety

    LARGO — Pinellas Sheriff's detectives are investigating a shooting that investigators said led to a man crashing his car after he was shot in the abdomen early Tuesday.

  2. Trump tweets, McCain return set stage for health bill vote (w/video)

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged Republicans to "step up to the plate" for Tuesday's crucial Senate vote on their bill eviscerating much of the Obama health care law. The stage was set for high drama, with Sen. John McCain returning to the Capitol to cast his first vote since being diagnosed with brain …

    President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and others, speaks about healthcare, Monday, July 24, 2017, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington. [Associated Press]
  3. Teenage driver livestreams crash that killed sister in California (w/video)

    Accidents

    FRESNO, Calif. — A teenage driver lost control of her car while she was livestreaming on Instagram and recorded part of the crash that authorities say killed her younger sister in California.

    This July 22, 2017 photo provided by the Merced County Sheriff, shows Obdulia Sanchez in Merced, Calif. Sanchez has been arrested in California on suspicion of causing a deadly crash that she recorded live on Instagram. She was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter after Friday's crash that killed her 14-year-old sister and badly injured another 14-year-old girl. [Merced County Sheriff via AP]
  4. Fiancee: Clearwater driver in truck trafficking case helped people

    Nation

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When a long-haul truck driver from Clearwater called his fiancee Sunday from a jail more than 1,000 miles from home, he had only a few minutes to describe the gruesome events that led to him being charged with a crime in which he could face the death penalty.

    James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, center, is escorted out of the federal courthouse following a hearing, Monday, July 24, 2017, in San Antonio. Bradley was arrested in connection with the deaths of multiple people packed into a broiling tractor-trailer. [Associated Press]
  5. Citizens fill a Pinellas County School Board meeting in 2016.