Tampa's GA Airports See Strong Business Rebound

 - March 25, 2021, 12:35 PM
Pavement work on the runways was part of a $7.7 million airfield improvement project at Tampa Executive Airport that is expected to be completed in April.

For Florida’s Hillsborough County, general aviation is proving resurgent after a Covid-19-induced dip starting early last year. FBO operators at Peter O. Knight, Plant City, Tampa Executive, and Tampa International airports reported just a 12 percent year-over-year drop in business in 2020, which they attributed to a weak spring that saw the entrenchment of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the U.S. By summer, the operational tempo and fuel flowage had rebounded, it noted.

According to Brett Fay, the county’s director of general aviation and overseer of its reliever airports, the lull was used to make significant improvements at the local fields.

At Tampa Executive, the 20-year-old terminal saw a $1.2 million renovation on everything from critical repairs to new bathrooms and flooring. “We’ve got a beautiful new terminal building,” said Fay. “These changes and improvements put [it] right up there with the nicest facilities you will find in general aviation.” In addition, a $7.7 million airport improvement project—including new runway pavement, lighting, and navigational aids—is slated to finish next month.

Plant City Airport recently received a new fuel farm and ramp aimed at improving service, while Sheltair, one of the two service providers at Tampa International, expects to start construction next month on a $20 million expansion project that will add 110,000 sq ft of hangar and office space to its campus.

“The future for general aviation is bright,” said Fay. “What we’re seeing in the trends is that general aviation is going to play a major part in our local economy and that building this infrastructure now is hugely important.”