Major renovations and changes are coming to the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport — in an effort to transform the facility from a general aviation airport to one that offers more accommodations for corporate jets.
Zephyrhills City Manager Billy Poe dished on the various happenings at the city-owned airport, located at 39459 South Ave., while speaking during the annual Zephyrhills Economic Summit at Zephyrhills City Hall.
The Oct. 13 event was organized by the City of Zephyrhills, Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce, Zephyrhills Economic Development Coalition, Main Street Zephyrhills, Pasco Economic Development Council (Pasco EDC), and AdventHealth Zephyrhills/Dade City.
The city manager was among several speakers during the economic summit.
Poe quipped that the local airport is “the best in Pasco County,” adding, “part of that is because we’re the only general aviation airport in Pasco County, but we are growing.”
He opened his briefing by mentioning the progress coming along on the extension of Runway 1/19 — with tree-clearing already underway along Chancey Road.
The project lengthens the runway by 1,500 feet — up to 6,200 feet, from the current 4,700 feet.
The work is being funded through a $5.9 million state appropriation that was received back in 2018.
The 1,500-foot extension will allow the airport to accommodate an additional 17 different types of aircraft (including C-2 and D-2 corporate jets that hold anywhere from 14 to 20 passengers), Poe explained.
“We’re trying to grow, we’re trying to go more toward the corporate customers,” Poe said.
The airport also received $3 million from the state this past year to construct itinerant parking for all aircraft arrivals and departures other than local aircraft operations.
This upgrade goes hand in hand with the Runway 1/19 extension.
The parking is for the additional corporate jets the airport is hoping to attract through its longer runway, the city manager said.
Presently, incoming and outgoing aircraft are forced to park in front of the airport’s fixed-base operation terminal, which is not ideal, Poe noted.
“We have issues with the jet parking, right in front of the terminal, trying to get gas. It’s just not good; there’s a lot of potential issues that happen with that,” said the city manager.
Other airport improvement projects also are in the pipeline. These are mostly being funded with help from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), with the city contributing a smaller share. The list includes:
- Rehabilitation and pavement of Taxiway A
- Upgrades to the fuel farm
- Upgrades to airfield beacons
Zephyrhills has its eyes set on greater aviation infrastructure improvements, too.
In advance of the 2022 legislative session, the city is requesting an additional $5.33 million from the state that would encompass building another taxiway, two box hangars and a newly renovated fixed-base operator terminal.
The most expensive proposition of the three-pronged initiative — if funding is approved — is a new fixed-base operator terminal, which would become a rest stop for pilots flying in and out of the airport, while also serving as an upgraded office space for airport staff.
Said Poe, “When pilots come in, they need to be able to plan the rest of the legs of their flight, have an area to come in, relax, watch some TV, take a shower, grab something to eat.”
Elsewhere, Poe underscored the critical role of the Pasco EDC — specifically business development director Tom Ryan — for helping to promote the municipal airport at ongoing events and conferences nationwide.
Ryan is responsible for business development of new and expanding office, technology, and industrial related businesses and parks, according to the Pasco EDC’s website.
His responsibilities also include coordinating strategies to support economic development efforts in targeted areas, including confidential site analysis, regulatory assistance, compiling location data and incentive programs.
“Tom makes trips all over the country and talks highly of Zephyrhills, and helps to market us (to places) where the city cannot get out to,” Poe said.
Poe also emphasized the airport could not make major improvements without grants from the DOT, FAA and state legislature.
He pointed out the city has received roughly $10 million worth of grants in the past three years alone, adding, “there’s (been) a number of grants, millions of dollars before that, and there’s hopefully, millions of dollars after that.”
Published October 27, 2021