April 29, 2015
By MC1 (SW/AW) John Smolinski
Senior leadership from Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax), Jacksonville Aviation Authority, Cecil Airport, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) held a joint press conference at Cecil Airport April 21 to describe the 11-month runway closure, repair, and temporary relocation to Cecil Airport.
The press conference provided an opportunity for the media to ask questions directly to team members involved with the planning and implementing of the shutdown and shift of fixed-wing operations from NAS Jax to the former NAS Cecil Field, now known as Cecil Airport.
“I’m pleased to have with us today the members of the joint team who have worked and continue to work together to ensure the temporary relocation of NAS Jacksonville’s fixed-wing aircraft to Cecil Airport goes smoothly and with very little impact to the community,” said NAS Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Howard Wanamaker.
“This project, that will close the main runway at NAS Jax for extensive repairs has been in the works for several years.”
The last comprehensive overhaul and major repair to the runways aboard NAS Jax were done in 1967, with resurfacing work being done in 1986.
This major improvement project includes repairing and resurfacing NAS Jax’s runways and taxiways, installing new airfield lighting and other airfield infrastructure repairs.
“We have already been prepping the taxiways and areas where we park the aircraft at Cecil to ensure an easy transition,” said Wanamaker. “We have also rehabbed hangars and facilities that were already here to house Patrol Wing-11, VP-30 and other squadrons.”
According to Wanamaker the $50-plus million project is expected to take 11 months to complete and is scheduled to begin in early June.
The renovation plans were coordinated with the office of Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, city councilmen Jim Love, Stephen Joost and Doyle Carter, as well as the Cecil Airport Citizens Advisory Committee.
“We do not anticipate our noise print getting larger from this shift,” said Rusty Chandler, Cecil Airport chief. “But we will see an increase in the number of operations. We currently run 100,000 operations here at Cecil in a year. From what the skipper has said, the Navy will add about 30,000 to 40,000 operations to that number.”
Approximately 2,100 NAS Jax personnel will work out of Cecil during a 24-hour period. There will be three shifts of 600 to 800 personnel working day, night and graveyard hours.
“NAS Jax will provide buses that will transport Sailors from different locations aboard NAS Jax to Cecil Airport,” said Wanamaker. “Sailors will have the option of driving directly to Cecil Airport or parking on base and riding to Cecil by bus.”
Ron Tittle, FDOT representative, added that he does anticipate an increase number of cars coming through the area around the airport.
“We have been coordinating with our construction contractors, engineering inspectors and FDOT project managers to inform them of this increase,” said Tittle. “We have worked with the JSO, who have done a great job being able to move and being aware of changes to the traffic patterns.”
Currently, construction of the First Coast Expressway can be seen as drivers approach State Road 23 and 103rd Street.
“We’ve been discussing this construction area at the FDOT and there seems to no issues,” said Tittle. “But we will continue to reach out to our contract team in this area as well.”
Security and fire departments at Cecil Airport will be augmented with personnel from NAS Jax to help with the increased workload. The question of whether or not Cecil Airport will see an increase in traffic delays because of security checkpoints was raised.
“We have security very similar to any other airport throughout the U.S.,” said Chandler. “This is a civilian airport, but it’s a highly secured airport. Our checkpoints limit access to people trying to get through the fence line not for those going through the normal channels through the terminals. So, we do not anticipate long wait times for travelers using civilian terminals.”
Press releases about the project are available at www.cnic.navy.mil/jacksonville or www.cecilairport.com. Questions about the project can be emailed to email@example.com. For noise complaints, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (904) 573-1611. For traffic information, visit http: www2.dot.state.fl.us/FloridaTrafficOnline or call FDOT at (850) 414-4100 or 511.