A clean bill of health from the Florida Department of Transportation for one of the Apalachicola airport’s six runways, and the only one running north and south, is further generating enthusiasm for the future of the airport.
Ted Mosteller, the airport’s interim manager, said FDOT, following a Jan. 4 inspection, determined that the acreage to the north of runway #18 had been sufficiently cleared so as to allow landings.
In April 2022, FDOT had determined that several pine trees, some as tall as 75 to 100 feet, obscured the glide path and so listed it as off-limits for landings, but continued to allow takeoffs.
FDOT then provided a $200,000 grant to the airport, which was used to fund a contract with Collins Land Services Inc, out of Havana, to handle the tree removal. The material was mulched and carted away, leaving a large field that affords pilots ample visuals.
Mosteller said FDOT will be back in April to re-evaluate the status. He said the state agency could opt for complete closure, which is unlikely to happen, or declassify the runway to utility status, or have it shortened to enable better landing access.
Commissioner Ottice Amison, whose seafood business and residence are both not far from the airport, has emerged as a champion of the airport.
He secured early last month unanimous approval from his colleagues to reconstitute the airport advisory board, which had been dissolved by commission vote a few years ago.
Amison said the precise name of the board, and who will serve on it, has not yet been determined. But there is agreement among commissioners that rather than opt for each having an appointment to the board, they will work to bring in an assortment of people that represent the interests of pilots, private business interests and the community.
“I never realized what was in my own backyard,” he said, during a recent tour of the airport’s newly cleared area.”This is a wonderful asset we haven’t tapped into yet.”
He said it is important to bring in not only airport enthusiasts to the advisory panel, but other county business interests as well, people who can provide insight and experience into what needs to be considered as the airport moves forward with expanding its array of services.
“All our t-hangars are used and there’s a potential to bring more in,” with the help of state and federal grants, he said.
While he acknowledges that some nearby residents may have concerns about airport expansion, he said the airport is not near a point of bringing in larger commercial aircraft, although the ample runway space, created during World War II as a training site for wartime aviators, makes that a possibility some day.
Amison also said that while some exceptionally high trees may need to be cleared from private lands north of the airport, he expects that agreement can be reached with those landowners, some of whom have cleared land on their own accord.