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Sat, Jul 07, 2007

Charlotte County Airport Director Looks Ahead To Growth, But Will TSA Agree?

Improvements Being Made to Attract Airline Service

Airline service can't return soon enough to Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, FL for airport director Gary Quill. The question is, will the government be accomodating to those ambitious plans?

Quill tells the Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune as far as infrastructure goes, the airport is nearly ready. All lighting and signage is in place, there's plenty of room for parking -- even for rental car companies -- and construction of a new 16,000 square-foot terminal is underway.

"If you're talking in terms of capability, yes, we do have it," he said.

Quill hopes to attract the attention of upstart low-cost carrier Skybus, which serves major metropolitan areas via distant regional airports -- all for dirt-cheap fares. He believes an airline like Skybus could florish at PGD... but the question isn't one of interest, but bureaucracy.

The airport is involved in ongoing discussions with the FAA and Transportation Security Administration regarding the legal issues. Quill believes the latter poses the biggest hurdle, however, due to the onus of arranging security at the airport.

The TSA states an airport the size of PGD would require five screeners per shift, as well as an x-ray machine and a metal detector -- all for fairly limited commercial service. The government fronts the cost of the equipment -- about $60,000 -- and pays screeners anywhere from $23,600 to $35,400 per year. The airport would have to construct a secure area for them to work.

Agency spokeswoman Sari Koshetz says the TSA is willing to work with the airport.

"We have been talking to the airport, and what the airport needs to have happen is FAA certification and then we have to approve their airport security plans," Koshetz told the Herald-Tribune. "If approved, we would come in there and support them."

FMI: www.flypgd.com, www.tsa.gov

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