Crystal River Airport’s master plan has long called for its current runway to be at least 5,000 feet long. This is the minimum for charter aircraft to take off and land under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations and is the keystone of many insurance companies’ ratings to structure their premiums. There are also insurance companies that limit their coverage to aircraft departing from airports with a minimum length of 5,000 feet.
But Crystal River Airport’s only paved east-west runway has receded, not advanced in length, due to the recent widening of US 19. Two hundred feet have been cut from the runway, reducing its length to 4,357 feet for planes landing in the east. This was not the direction the airport and the Citrus County Commission wanted.
The commission asked the FAA to recognize the need for the airport to extend the length of its runway and to authorize funding for the project through a funding agreement with the FAA, the Florida Department of Transportation and the county commission. The request was for $6.5 million.
But wonder of wonders, the state legislature came to the rescue first. Commission lobbyist Gene McGee led the funding request, and this year’s legislature approved an appropriation of $7.1 million. The bill now sits on Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk awaiting his signature.
Barring a governor’s veto, that money will add 645 feet to the runway, allowing it to meet the minimums required by the FAA. The runway extension project also overcomes barriers from insurance companies that often have higher premiums for planes landing on shorter runways and may also limit the availability of insurance to planes using smaller runways.
But there are additional benefits. Although the airport does not expect significantly larger aircraft to fly at Crystal River, the airport does expect more operations by the current aircraft types that take off and land at the airport. This is due to the increased safety measures gained with a longer runway and the ability of these aircraft to carry more fuel and payload. They are also not hampered by weather conditions requiring increased runway lengths for takeoff and landing.
Additionally, only two local jets are currently parked at the airport. With a longer runway, at least three additional county residents who own jets can make Crystal River their home base rather than basing their planes at other area airports. According to projections, the increased length will see jet aircraft quickly exceed 500 operations per year, up sharply from the current 200 annual jet aircraft procedures.
This airport project fits perfectly with the Suncoast Parkway extension and makes the area attractive to companies who may consider the Nature Coast in their growth plans, but would stop this development if the airport did not meet their requirements. minimal. Increased business growth means an increase in the county’s tax base. Clearly, building a 5,000 foot runway at Crystal River Airport is a win-win situation for everyone and it is taxpayers’ money well spent.