Year-round warm weather, white sandy beaches, and sophisticated dining, shopping, and culture, along with the recent U.S. tax law changes, have attracted high-net-worth individuals—and their private jets—to the Southwest Florida city of Naples. “Naples still has that small-town charm but provides plenty of amenities and allows visitors to remain low profile,” said Naples Airport Authority executive director Chris Rozansky. “And the recent tax changes are also driving a population shift from high-tax states to lower-tax ones like Florida.”
Naples Aviation, the sole full-service FBO operated by the airport authority at Naples Airport, is benefitting from this population shift, with year-to-date aircraft traffic surging by more than 10 percent, according to FBO manager Mike Hushek. In 2018, the general aviation-only airport averaged more than 9,000 operations per month and totaled 110,000 for the year; this year, it is averaging 10,000 per month and had logged 90,000 through the end of July. Those kinds of numbers dwarf airline operations at nearby Southwest Florida International Airport, which logged about 82,000 movements last year.
As for most Florida destinations, the peak season in Naples is from Thanksgiving to Easter, though Rozansky said it “seems to be extending through Memorial Day.” But its absolute peak day is December 26, when the airport can see more than 500 movements, with upwards of 150 aircraft—mostly business jets—parked on the ramp overnight.
To handle this amount of traffic during peak season, Naples Aviation—known as Naples Airport Authority before the facility was rebranded late last year—scales up to more than 60 employees during the winter months. All staff members receive both Avfuel and NATA Safety 1st training. And the staff was recognized by NATA for its excellence in May, with Hushek receiving the association’s Future Leadership Award. The Safety 1st Line Service Professional of the Year Award went to Naples Aviation line duty officer Scott Seber.
It is also well equipped to accommodate the influx of general and business aircraft during these peaks, with 10 aircraft refueling trucks (eight dedicated to jet-A), six 28.5-volt GPUs, two 60-KVA ground-power units, air start and air conditioning cart, and Lektro 8850 tugs.
The Avfuel-branded facility also has a 200,000-gallon fuel farm, helping to ensure it doesn’t run low on fuel on the busiest of days. Besides its large fleet of fueling trucks, Naples Aviation also has two avgas self-serve tanks available. It offers volume fuel uplift discounts, AvFuel Contract fuel, and AvFuel AvTrip points. The FBO, which specializes in quick turns, is the exclusive fuel provider at the airport.
Naples Aviation’s two-story, 19,000-sq-ft general aviation terminal includes a passenger lounge with refreshment bar, business center, conference room, fitness center with showers, crew lounge with snooze room, and flight-planning room. Amenities include eight crew cars, on-site rental cars (Go Rentals year-round; Avis, Hertz, and National during peak season only), and a ramp-side concierge cart for more efficient quick turns. It also offers a full range of aircraft services, 208 T-hangars, and bulk hangar storage.
Additionally, on-site U.S. Customs services are available daily from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., with after-hour services incurring an additional fee. Last year, 1,300 aircraft cleared U.S. Customs at Naples Airport; through the end of July, 1,200 aircraft did so this year, Hushek said.
Notably, Rozansky said, “The airport is 100 percent self-sufficient, and all FBO profits go back into the airport,” which celebrated its 50th year operating under the airport authority in July. “Since then, all funds used for the airport’s operation, maintenance and improvements have been generated from activities at the airport or from federal and state grants; the airport receives no property tax dollars. The Florida Department of Transportation values the airport’s economic impact to the community at more than $440 million annually.”
Rozansky and his team are currently updating the airport’s master plan, which he said will include modernization of the general aviation terminal and additional hangars to accommodate future traffic growth. Since this is just in the planning stage, there are not yet any concrete designs.
And as traffic rises, so too does the community’s concern about airport noise. To help quell this issue, Naples Airport has adopted voluntary “quiet hours” from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. “The airport authority will more actively promote a ‘fly neighborly’ message, and we’re aiming to communicate it via a positive message. We don’t want it to be punitive at all,” Rozansky told AIN.
Overall, he said, Naples Aviation and the airport itself strives to “provide an exceptional experience exceeding every flight crewmember and visitor's expectations.” Naples Airport is minutes from downtown Naples, the Gulf of Mexico, and I-75. It is home to flight schools, air charter operators, and corporate aviation and non-aviation businesses, as well as Collier County’s mosquito control, Sheriff’s aviation unit, and other community services.