Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport Begins 4th Year of Operation
June 5, 2013 by SoWal Staff
Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) in Panama City Beach just finished their third year of operations. The milestone was not marked with a celebration, but an acknowledgment of how far the airport has come since the grand opening, and an optimistic look forward to the growth and development that the region can expect in the near future.
Continuing to invest in the passenger experience will be a centerpiece of the fourth year at ECP. In July, the airport will begin construction on an eagerly anticipated covered parking project. Once completed, the structure will provide cover for approximately 300 parking spots and the walkway that leads to the terminal.
The current project schedule projects a November grand opening. Airport officials noted that throughout the next several months there will be a lot of construction related activity at the airport and all efforts will be made to cause as little disruption as possible to normal parking operations.
Another big construction project in the works is the crosswind runway. In February, the board of directors asked airport leadership to expedite this project. Funds are currently being lined up for construction and once that is secured, ECP will move quickly to build the runway.
Ground transportation will be getting a makeover soon, thanks to a new agreement with Sunshine Shuttle. A kiosk has been installed in the Terminal, allowing people to secure ground transportation if they have not already done so prior to their arrival. Sunshine Shuttle will be responsible for kiosk operations and enhancing the ground transportation experience. Additionally, a variety of ground transportation providers will continue to be available to passengers upon exiting the Terminal. The goal of this new system is two-fold: first, provide a more customer friendly service and second, make ground transportation more economical.
A critical part of the success of every airport is a strong master plan. ECP has been developing its master plan for the last couple of years and at the end of 2013 it will be complete. The master plan will help leadership strategically plan airport growth -- establishing planning horizons, which will allow the airport to provide facilities as they are needed. Citizen participation is encouraged in the planning effort, and the airport will share the results with the community.
“Needless to say, there is a lot happening at ECP,” said Board Chairman John Pilcher. “Much of the development is a result of community feedback. We are fortunate to have a community where people are invested in the success of the airport.”
Additionally, the airport will complete the Stormwater Augmentation Project in early summer. The mitigation efforts on the property to the south of the airport are restoring wetland habitat and enhancing uplands as part of the environmental permits with the FAA, FDEP and USACE. The airport is restoring wetland habitat at a four to one ratio and achieving restoration well ahead of schedule, continuing the airport’s positive stewardship of the environment.
Thanks to the support of the community, ECP is now serving the second largest volume of travelers in Northwest Florida spanning from Tallahassee to Pensacola. However, the number one thing most people continue to seek is expanded air service. ECP is continuously engaging with new airlines and working with its existing carriers to add service. Bringing in new flights is a lengthy process, but leadership remains confident the hard work will pay off.