Make us your home page

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 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

  1. Lost Highway: As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The number of speeding tickets written by Florida state troopers has plunged three straight years as the agency grapples with a personnel shortage and high turnover.

    A Florida Highway Patrol Academy class in the late 1980s. Typically, graduating classes had about 80 recruits. But the most recent class has less than half that as the agency continues to struggle to fill vacancies. [

Florida: Highway Patrol]
  2. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze


    First it was Play-Doh. Then Gak. There have been dozens of variations for sale of the oozy, gooey, squishable, stretchable kids' toy through the generations.

    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  3. After last year's drug-related deaths, Tampa's Sunset Music Festival says it's stepping up safety, security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Alex Haynes worked three jobs. He had a fiance and an infant son. He owned his own home in Melbourne. Last summer, the 22-year-old attended the Sunset Musical Festival at Raymond James Stadium.

    He left in an ambulance.

    Last year’s Sunset Music Festival was marked by dozens of medical emergencies.
  4. What you need to know for Friday, May 26


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Read this morning why Florida's most prized sweet corn is nearly extinct. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in


    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times