St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport is no fly-by-night operation

The St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport boasts a proud past, a busy present and a burgeoning future.

Plaques in the terminal commemorate the world's first commercial flight — made Jan. 1, 1914, between St. Petersburg and Tampa — and the airport's role as a military flight training base during World War II.

"It's a significant bit of aviation history," said Michele Routh, the facility's community and media relations director.

Today, the airport is home to the busiest Coast Guard Air Station in the world — not to mention United Parcel Service, air cargo and general-corporate aviation.

It also has five passenger airlines, including Allegiant Air, which has 20 nonstop destinations, and USA 3000 Airlines, which pulled out of the airport in August but is resuming flights to one destination (Chicago) starting Dec. 18, with the possibility of more in the future.

Despite USA 3000's departure, the airport is on target to exceed the nearly 750,000 passengers served last year, Routh said.

"We're projecting close to 800,000," she said, noting that the number of flights varies from week to week based on the season. "Often, we describe it as a roller coaster."

The future promises more growth.

The county received a consultant's feasibility study on the potential redevelopment of the Airco Golf Course adjacent to the airport. The plan calls for 25 of the golf course's 129 acres being earmarked for aviation projects and 78 acres for two hotels and a mix of office and industrial buildings. The remaining land is unsuitable for development.

County commissioners agreed to explore the proposal, but any action likely is years away.

Times staff

Did you know?

• The world's first ticket for air travel was sold by the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line for a flight from St. Petersburg to Tampa on Jan. 1, 1914. The event is commemorated at the airport with a plaque and a replica of the Benoist amphibious airplane flown on the inaugural flight (in photo at left).

• The airport's longest runway is 9,730 feet.

• The airport's other two runways are 5,500 feet long.

• The largest number of passengers served in a year in airport history was 1.3-million in 2004.

St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport is no fly-by-night operation 11/29/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 1, 2008 3:59pm]

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