Craig name preserved for Jacksonville airport; but so is distrust of Arlington residents

Aviation authority to meet with residents tonight to clear the air.

World War II aviator James Craig can rest in peace. But the people living around the Arlington general aviation airport that bears his name are still feeling anxious.

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority this week modified a plan to change the name of Craig Municipal Airport to Jacksonville Executive Airport. Craig, a Jacksonville native who died aboard the USS Pennsylvania during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, now will remain part of the airport's name.

But residents and officials say the outcry over the name change goes beyond James Craig and speaks to the distrust Arlington residents have for the JAA.

That distrust will be front and center tonight when JAA Executive Director Steve Grossman addresses Arlington residents at a town hall meeting sponsored by City Council members Clay Yarborough, Bill Bishop and Richard Clark.

Longtime disagreement

The airport has two 4,000-foot runways. The JAA master plan for Craig calls for one runway to be extended to 5,600 feet, and the agency's board has tried for years to get this started. Each time the Arlington community objected, and the City Council stepped in to block it.

Arlington residents say a longer runway will lead to larger, and noisier, planes, and worry the name change is an effort to extend the runway.

"It is certainly possible that JAA had no ulterior motive with this name change," said Lad Hawkins, president of the Greater Arlington Civic Council. "But the level of trust is so low that we just naturally assume the worst."

Clark, who is missing today's meeting because he has to go out of town for personal reasons, said he'd like airport executives, Arlington residents, businesses at the airport and City Council to sit down together and agree in writing on what the airport will and won't do in the future.

Grossman said he'd welcome that opportunity and was willing to discuss abandoning the runway extension.

But Grossman said he also hoped to talk to the community about why extending the runway wouldn't be as disastrous as they think.

"Airplanes are becoming significantly quieter," he said.

Grossman also defended re-branding the airport for executives, saying a lot of business travelers live in the area and landing at the airport is more convenient than at JIA.

The name of Craig Airport will most likely be changed to either Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport, or Jacksonville/Craig Executive Airport, Grossman said.



Visit our airport system websites