Apalachicola Regional Airport now employs two fulltime aircraft mechanics.
On Dec. 5, Taylor Newman, CEO of Crystal Air, the firm that became fixed base operator for the airport in October 2012, told county commissioners some changes are in progress at the airport.
He said hangar occupancy has increased from 65 to 80 percent. Newman said Crystal Air is actively seeking a permanent tenant for the large corporate hangar, which is now being leased out on a short-term piecemeal basis for storage of boats, cars and airplanes.
The airport employs certified aviation maintenance technicians John Moore, of Port St. Joe, and B.J. Neshat, of Eastpoint to maintain and repair aircraft.
Newman said use of the airport during the spring and summer was less than expected due to inclement weather, but unusually heavy traffic during the fall helped make up for reduced income during the high season.
County Planner Alan Pierce said Crystal Air would need to take more responsibility for mowing and maintaining airport grounds in the upcoming year because the county could not continue to maintain the grounds.
Newman said additional landscaping is planned for the airport. “We are trying to increase our front porch appeal,” he said.
Commissioner Pinki Jackel expressed concern that the airport didn’t have a dedicated web page.
“I am very disappointed that one year after (Crystal Air began managing the airport) when I Google it, I’m sent straight to the county website,” she said. “A website can be gotten up in a week and we have plenty of people in the county who can help you do that. People use search engines to plan their travel.”
Jackel urged Newman to become more involved in the community and join both chambers of commerce. “On a report card basis, there’s a lot of improvements to be made. I think you’re doing a better job than what was going on,” she said.
On Monday, the web problem had been corrected and typing Apalachicola Regional Airport into a search engine brought the researcher to the dedicated web page.
Newman said Crystal Air recently purchased a car for use as a short-term rental or a crew car. He said Hertz continues to have rental cars available at the airport but Thrifty no longer has cars there.
He said Crystal Air plans to acquire its own fleet of several rental cars. “We plan to keep it as economical as possible,” he said. “They may be several years old but they will be well maintained and good for local use.”
Newman said Crystal is looking for a qualified airport manager to head airport operations here.
The airport is scheduled to receive more than a million dollars in public funding during 2014.
At the county meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to accept $270,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) to upgrade the condition of the runways.
Pierce told commissioners that early next year, DOT would provide the county with an additional $1.2 million to build a new taxiway that will connect the county’s undeveloped industrial park, adjacent to the airport, to the runway. This will make the industrial park have airport access and make it more desirable for aviation-related uses, he said.