According to Bob Tweedie, Marco Airport Manager, work on the airport project is well on the way to completion of the car parking and apron extension. The main taxiway work will take approximately 270 calendar days. However, environmental resource permit restricts the workers from doing any construction within wetland areas during crocodile nesting season, that is, during the months of October through February. The project has been designed, bid, and funded. A grant and contract are expected to be in place by approximately the middle of October or beginning of November at which time the construction phase of the project may begin.
The changes at the airport will bring numerous benefits. Safety is number one. The new taxiway will reduce delay times of inbound aircraft and eliminate the need to backtrack using an active runway. With the new taxiway, the airport will be able to safely land aircraft and taxiing aircraft at the same time. It will also help on aircraft maneuvering on the apron, speed up fueling time and take out much of the present frustration of visitors and airfield staff.
The airport is very busy during season and less active during the off season. Christmas and New Year is a typical peak period. Bob Tweedie explains: “The crowdedramp in the photograph clearly shows why we need to do these airport improvements because you have congested parking area. The airport’s ramp is like hotel rooms: if you don’t have enough rooms to serve the demand then you need to put in some more facilities to accommodate that demand.”
To measure aeronautical activity (take off and landing) Tweedie says movements are estimated, since there is no operating control tower to verify. From observations and random samples, it is estimated that the airport handles about 16,000 aircraft operations over a 12-month period. Between 60% and 70 % of those operations occur during the season, between November and April—six months out of the year sees 60% to 70% of total traffic.
Tweedie thinks that the improvements will naturally attract newer aircraft operators. “Obviously,” he says, “we want to maximize the benefits of the airport for all users, and we will certainly market that. This particular time is a good opportunity for operators and businesses to invest in the airport.”
Coast guard helicopters and visiting aircraft come into Marco Airport when there is a search and rescue in the area. For instance, when there is a missing boat the airport has the resources for them when they come in to refuel. The airport also supports their crewwith ground support services that have the ability for them to get weather communications, being able to contact their base, get some food, and so on. “This all makes a really big difference in their ability to search longer periods of time over the search area because of the proximity of the gulf,” says Tweedie. During natural disasters such as hurricanes etc, the airport serves to support air operations related to relief efforts etc. Also, the airport is home base to Marco Aviation, providing on demand air charter service to the Bahamas, Keys, and other Florida destinations, as well as home to Island Hoppers providing helicopter aerial sightseeing and charter services.
Law enforcement aircraft helicopters and fix wing aircraft that are used for fire support are also served by Marco Airport. Tweedie: “A couple of years ago, when we had some brush fires that were ragging south of here around the Golden Gate estates, the fire bombers used this [Marco Airport]as a support base, and have staged here up to six firefighting aircraft–both fix wing and helicopter–that they based out of here because of the proximity to the fire.”
Marco Airport can handle aircraft weighing up to 100,000 lbs. This means the airport will receive the largest of business jets, such as a Gulf , which is about a 90,000 gross weight aircraft. According to Tweedie, the airport has a range of aircraft, from Stream 5Cessna 150 to Gulf Stream 5. As well as helicopters for pleasure flights, search and rescue helicopters, and fix wing, the airport also handles private light aircraft and Marco Aviation Charter.
When asked about equipment for the increased air traffic, Tweedie explains: “Land-based navigational aids are going in the same direction as the dinosaurs. There is a VOR/ DME instrument approach for runway 17 which utilizes the Naples VOR. There is a GPS for both runway 17 and 35. There is also an automated weather station, which is owned and maintained by the FAA, and which provides current weather conditions. Fuel available Jet A and Avgas 100 LL and Car Hire.
The present layout will be changed. A new terminal building will be built once we have completed our immediate commitments. The future is likely to include a further extension across the street. This would be in the intermediate range—possibly in five to ten years, depending on demand and funding. A new terminal building is in the floor plan which will be approximately twice the size of the current building. Says Tweedie: “This is all conception stuff. Nothing is solidified.” The footprint ofthe new airport can be seen on the picture of the layout. Recently acquired land is shown in green.
A dream come true for many and what an exciting future for our airport. Congratulations, Marco Island Airport.
The Marco Airport has been important to me since the 70s when I worked for PBA and then we bought Marco Island Airways. It was a wonderful little airport except it had no taxiway making it dangerous to land some times. For many, many years we have pressed forward to get dollars, approval, permits, etc. to actually build that taxiway, and now we can see the beautiful light at the end of the runway! Thanks so much to everyone who worked so hard to make this happen, from the Airport Authority to the airport staff and the airport manager, and bless his heart – David Rivera! The contract and dollars should be in our hands by the time you read this paper. My deepest thanks for everyone who has helped bring this taxiway to fruition.
Also, I’d like to offer a warm welcome to the new Airport Director, Chris Curry, who began his work on Wednesday, September 15th. And a special thank you to Penny Phillippi for doing double duty as our interim Airport Director to help and guide the project.
-Donna Fiala County Commissioner