Recognizing the Crystal River Airport is an economic driver and needs safety improvements, county commissioners Tuesday voted unanimously to fire off a resolution to state legislators and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to extend the runway.
Tuesday’s vote comes at a time when the Citrus County Engineering Division is making several improvements at the airport, including a new beacon and new t-hangars to store planes.
The airport contributes an estimated $5.37 million to the Crystal River economy from air traffic that affects local businesses and tourism, according to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) data.
The existing landing strip is about 640 feet too short for many corporate and private jets to comfortably use. Ideally, a 5,000-foot runway is needed to provide an adequate safety margin for the aircraft to take off and land.
As it stands now, current air traffic may not meet the operational requirement of 500 jet operations annually, the county said.
How much runway an aircraft needs to take off or land is determined by a variety of factors, including payload — the heavier the plane, the more runway it needs.
Pilots are often limited now due to payload because they can’t take as many passengers or cargo and may have to plan an extra fuel stop.
The airport's previous 50-foot beacon was obsolete, difficult to repair, and caused visibility issues for approaching aircraft. The new 75-foot-tall beacon was funded through a partnership between the FAA, FDOT and Citrus County.
Construction on 10 t-hangar units has started and should be completed by March 2021.
There is a significant need for hangars throughout the state to provide safe storage of aircraft, with 24 people on the waiting list for hangars, according to the county. This project is expected to bring in about $41,000 in revenue per year to the county.