Growth threatens to squeeze out executive airport
By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN, Times Staff Writer
NEW PORT RICHEY -- West Pasco County could be left without its only corporate airport and home to Bayflite helicopters within three to five years thanks to encroaching growth coupled by rising insurance costs.
The scheduled expansion of State Road 54 and Trinity Boulevard the next few years could pose a safety hazard to the landlocked Tampa Bay Executive Airport, said airport manager Anita Hoover.
"I don't see us here beyond three to five years," Hoover said Thursday.
Aside from roads, growth from Trinity is strangling the airport, she said.
"There is no room for growth," she said.
County Commissioner Pete Altman is trying to prevent west Pasco being left without an airport. Citing his familiarity with insurance problems at the airport, Altman on Thursday asked state transportation officials to study aviation needs and opportunities for West Pasco. His request was supported by other members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization during a meeting at the West Pasco Government Center in New Port Richey.
Contacted afterward, Hoover said insurance issues aren't the biggest of her problems.
The expanding highways could pose a safety hazard near the single-runway airport, she said.
"There are going to be so many cars coming and going parallel to my runway, I anticipate an unfamiliar pilot landing on the highway or cars driving down the highway watching the planes," she said.
Aside from the safety issue, the insurance costs continue to climb at the airport.
Last year, the airport came within weeks of shutting down when managers couldn't find any company to renew its insurance policy in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Hoover said. An insurance carrier came through, but her rates increased by 50 percent.
She expects to be able to renew her insurance this year but anticipates another large premium hike.
Tampa Bay Executive, a private airport owned by Seven Eagles Inc., hosts a Bayflite station, a paint shop, a flight school and a maintenance facility. About 100 airplanes are based there most days.
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