by Joe Wilhelm Jr., Staff Writer
It has been known as U.S. Naval Auxiliary Air Station Cecil Field, Naval Air Station Cecil Field and Cecil Field after the U.S. Navy ceased air operations and handed the land over to the City of Jacksonville.
The airport section of the former naval base has re-branded itself as Cecil Airport.
“We wanted the designation to represent more of the general aviation business and updated airport that it offers,” said Michael Stewart, director of external affairs for Jacksonville Aviation Authority.
The new name is part of the growth of the Westside airport and JAA interim Chief Operating Officer Bob Simpson was encouraged about its future.
“What you don’t see out here is rooftops,” said Simpson, pointing at an aerial view of the airport.
“We don’t have a problem a lot of airports have across the country–incompatible land use right up against its fences,” he said.
The airport has room to grow without upsetting its neighbors, Simpson said, and it plans to open about 120 acres on its east side to accommodate requests from businesses wanting to move to Cecil Airport.
“We have had businesses approach us recently that wanted to build facilities that would need 30-40 acres and we just don’t have that available now,” said Simpson.
“This plan will allow us to fit about four new hangars, along with necessary parking, retention ponds and runway skirting,” he said.
A new taxiway and approach road will be part of the project.
The east side expansion is necessary because all of the current space at Cecil Airport is leased out.
“Demand for these facilities is robust right now,” said Simpson.
An example of that demand is the development of two hangars in the design phase. One is 30,000 square feet and the airport is in negotiations with KCI Aviation, based in Bridgeport, W.Va., to occupy it.
KCI Aviation is a maintenance and repair organization located at the North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport.
The airport’s growth will also include the commercial space industry.
Cecil Field was certified as a spaceport in January 2010 and is searching for an operator.
“We are moving from government to commercial spaceflight,” said Simpson. “And we don’t want to be left in the dust.”
Simpson explained that Cecil Airport’s competitive advantage is that it meets the spaceport requirements of having a runway longer than 10,000 feet and a width of at least 200 feet and it doesn’t serve commercial traffic.