PANAMA CITY, FL (March 17, 2014) — After analyzing demand forecasts and receiving counsel on airport expansion, the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) Board of Directors approved moving forward with the further development of a 20-year, $33.6 million expansion plan — one of the five terminal growth concepts presented at the Board meeting. The completed plan will have planning benchmarks for three milestones, known as Planning Activity Levels (annual passenger enplanements): 515,000; 705,000, and 875,000. Improvements projects will be carried out in phases as passenger activity increases throughout the next 20 years and beyond.
“This plan allows our staff the flexibility to move forward as demand increases and scale back expansion when the numbers don’t support growth,” said ECP Executive Director Parker W. McClellan, Jr. A.A.E. “This ensures we will meet the demand of our customers while maintaining a strong economic presence in the region.”
ECP began its master plan study in 2012, with the assistance of consultant CHA Consulting (formerly RW Armstrong). The master plan is required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and is a multi-year study used by airports to lay the foundation for long-term airport development. A master plan is needed for ECP to be eligible to receive state and federal funding for improvement projects.
During the study ECP took full inventory of the airport and total aircraft operations — passengers, airport layout and current facilities. The planners studied historical passenger traffic data and blueprints of the current layout, observed airport activity during the busy season, and conducted three separate seasonal passenger surveys.
“Only by understanding how the airport functions at its current level of demand, can we successfully identify future needs as passengers and flights increase,” said Project Manager Paul Puckli, of CHA Consulting. “We identified some strength as well as areas in need of improvement — that were more prevalent during busier times.”
During the Board meeting, top priorities for phase one were identified and include improvements to the inbound and outbound baggage systems and expanding the security checkpoint. The plan also recommends the expansion of the concourse which will include additional gates as well as increased concession areas; and several airfield improvements.
With an approved plan, consultants will break down the cost of the expansion plans by phase, so projects can be completed as funding becomes available.