By Larry Hannan
January 24, 2011
Jacksonville Executive Airport is dead. Instead, it’s now Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport.
For the second time in three months the Jacksonville Aviation Authority has changed the name of the general aviation airport in Arlington off St. Johns Bluff Road.
In November the name was changed from Craig Municipal Airport to Jacksonville Executive Airport. The second name change occurred Monday when the JAA board unanimously approved the change. JAA Executive Director Steve Grossman has said a new name could help attract more flights and businesses to the airport.
James Craig, who the airport is named after, was a Jacksonville native who died aboard the USS Pennsylvania during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and residents objected to his name being removed.
The airport has two 4,000-foot runways, and the JAA master plan for Craig calls for extending one runway to 5,600 feet. The agency’s board has tried for years to get it started, but each time the Arlington community has objected with the City Council eventually stepping in to block it.
Grossman faced an angry crowd of more than 100 people last week at a public meeting.
Residents at the meeting opposed changing the name of the airport and said they believed the name change was a plot to extend the runway.
On Monday, Grossman denied that.
“Our staff is not pursuing a runway extension,” he said. “Nor is it in our capital improvement budget.”
Jacksonville City Council members John Crescimbeni and Clay Yarborough, who were at last week’s meeting and also attended Monday’s Airport Authority meeting, asked the board to change the name back to Craig Municipal Airport.
“The citizens don’t believe you when you say you’re not pursuing a runway extension,” Crescimbeni said.
People in Arlington want the name of the airport to stay the same, and acceding to their wishes would be a good way to rebuild public trust, he said.
It’s also unlikely a name change would lead to more business at the airport, Crescimbeni said.
But Grossman disagreed and said a rebranding would increase the number of flights and businesses at the facility.
JAA Chairman Ernest Isaac also said there was no plan to extend the runway, and residents didn’t have to worry about the authority surreptitiously extending it.
“If that ever comes up, we’ll have a dialogue with the community before anything happens,” Isaac said.
JAA has launched a $155,000 rebranding effort to attract more business at all of its airports.
On the Westside, Cecil Field will become Cecil Airport and Herlong Airport will become Herlong Recreational Airport. Jacksonville International Airport’s name will stay the same.
The JAA also has a new logo, the symbol of an airplane with four slash marks representing the four airports.
The new logo also dovetails with the authority’s plans for marking its 10th anniversary in 2011. The Legislature created the aviation authority by splitting the airports from the Jacksonville Port Authority.
Meanwhile, Craig Municipal Airport remains on airport signs, but the new name will appear this year.