Friends of Naples Municipal Airport, a nonprofit community organization that supports the city’s only public-use airport, mourns the loss of the pilot and copilot who perished on Friday performing an emergency landing near Naples’ airport, and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured crew member, passengers and motorists.

As the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the cause of this accident, we want to emphasize that such accidents involving general aviation aircraft are uncommon.

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the overall total accident rate for 2021 (the most recent year for which data is available) was 4.28 per 100,000 hours, with fatalities occurring at a rate of just 0.77 per 100,000 hours. Both rates showed a steady decline over the preceding decade.

“The flying public should have the utmost confidence that such tragic accidents like the recent emergency landing on Interstate 75 are exceedingly rare,” said Stephen Myers, CAM, an FAA-certified pilot, executive vice president of Elite Jets, and president of the Friends of Naples Municipal Airport.

Corporate executives, successful entrepreneurs and wealthy retirees frequently use Naples Airport when traveling to and from Southwest Florida. It is convenient, easy to navigate and accommodates a range of small- and mid-sized jets.

As community leaders continue exploring solutions to resolve noise concerns from residents living near the airport, it is easy to blame those who book private jets to enjoy long weekends at their beachfront mansions.

Naples Airport is not just for the wealthy, though. It’s for us – ALL of us.

The airport is a critical piece of our infrastructure puzzle. Along with roadways, parks, schools, libraries and public utilities, Naples Airport helps make our community one of America’s best places to live.

Who uses Naples Airport? Yes, jet-setting executives and wealthy retirees are arriving and departing daily, but the airport’s value extends far beyond serving as the landing strip for affluent business and leisure travelers.

Naples Airport is home to the Collier Mosquito Control District, a government agency that relies on a fleet of trucks, drones, helicopters and airplanes to control our sizable mosquito population. Without their help, venturing outdoors, especially in the summer, would be unbearable.

The airport also is a base for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, which has an aviation unit that conducts search and rescue operations, surveillance, patrol flights, searches for illegal marijuana grows and aerial photography.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a presence at Naples Airport, as do flight schools that help aspiring pilots hone their skills.

Collier County MedFlight has a pair of helicopters at Naples Airport that transport residents and visitors in need of immediate medical attention. Because Collier does not have a trauma center, an air ambulance service is critical when every second matters.

On the nonprofit side, Angel Flight uses Naples Airport to fly charitable missions with organ transplant candidates, veterans, cancer patients, victims of abuse and others. Humane Society Naples and America’s Military & First Responders Museum both have a presence at Naples Airport.

Naples Airport also plays a role in the region’s hurricane response and recovery. Although much of the airport grounds flooded during Hurricane Ian, crews worked expeditiously to clear runways and fix damage so that U.S. Coast Guard and military helicopters could begin search and rescue operations. Additionally, Humane Society Naples partnered with Elite Jets to create a staging area for animals that allowed charter companies to help dogs and cats find their forever homes elsewhere.

A 2022 economic impact study determined Naples Airport supports 5,454 jobs in the community and generates a total economic impact of $781 million annually. Each time a jet or helicopter flies overhead, it doesn’t just mean another affluent individual is coming or going... it means revenue is filtering into the local economy. It might mean mosquitoes are being sprayed, law enforcement is tracking down a criminal or one of our neighbors, friends, family members or co-workers is being rushed to the hospital for a life-saving medical procedure.

Naples Airport has a long history of service to this community that dates all the way back to its origins in 1943, when it was used as a military airfield. Today, the airport is still providing vital benefits to this community as a transportation hub essential to our safety, health, wellbeing and economy.

Friends of Naples Municipal Airport, a nonprofit community organization that supports the city’s only commercial airport, has announced a new slate of board officers.

The 18-member board named Stephen Myers, CAM, an FAA-certified pilot and executive vice president of Elite Jets, as its president. Bill Earls, a luxury real estate broker with John R. Wood Properties, is the board’s new vice president.

The board appointed Christel Johnson, a real estate broker and owner of Paradise Coast Property Team, as its treasurer. Bruce Byerly, a third-generation aviator and owner of Byerly Aviation in Peoria, Illinois, is the new board secretary.

“For over 70 years, Naples Municipal Airport has been an essential civic resource for our world-class community,” Myers said. “Our volunteer board of dedicated community leaders is deeply committed to ensuring that the airport remain both a valued and well-maintained resource as well as an exemplary neighbor.”

First formed nearly a quarter-century ago, Friends of Naples Municipal Airport was recently reactivated amid a Naples Airport Authority noise abatement study submitted to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). The study recommendations to the FAA include increasing the glideslope to one runway, creating a residential sound insulation program and implementing an enhanced quiet flying plan.

The airport currently has a voluntary flight curfew from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. that officials say has a nearly 99% compliance rate. The Airport Authority is also pursuing a study about the feasibility of moving the airport, a scenario the Friends of Naples Municipal Airport strongly opposes.

“With a total economic impact of $781 million annually and more than 5,450 jobs supported in the community, Naples Municipal Airport is unquestionably one of our city’s most valued, and valuable, resources,” Myers said. “The financial gains, convenience, year-round tourism and community support it provides to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, medical emergency flights, fire and rescue operations, and the county’s Mosquito Control District make it a vital and essential resource to our collective health and well-being.”

The airport does not receive any local tax dollars, generating revenue from hangar rental and fuel sales as part of a financially self-sustaining operation.

Ongoing noise concerns at Naples Municipal Airport in Florida have community members calling for airport operation restrictions while airport advocates fight to convince officials of the benefits of the field.

Citizens in Naples have been attempting to curb noise emissions from the airport users for decades, but in recent years efforts to pressure the Naples Airport Authority (NAA) to restrict operations have intensified.

Calls for restrictions range from implementing curfews on airport operations to moving city services and flight schools to alternate locations.

Since the mid-1980s, the Naples airport has undergone three voluntary FAR Part 150 studies, which measure airport noise compatibility. The studies, including the most recent submitted to the FAA for approval earlier this year, have cost the NAA approximately $2.2 million to date. More than 100 public and stakeholder meetings have been held, according to NAA Executive Director Chris Rozansky.

A Part 150 study produces two deliverables: noise exposure maps and a noise compatibility program. Noise exposure maps for the Part 150 study still underway at the airport were accepted by the FAA in December 2021, and the draft for the noise compatibility program was submitted to the FAA in February. The agency has 180 days to respond. The noise compatibility program includes a number of noise mitigation strategies for implementation.

In a November 2022 City of Naples Joint Workshop Meeting, airport advocates, city council members, and passionate members of the community gathered to discuss the issue, and several members of the council and the public expressed frustration with the lack of measurable noise reduction. Naples Vice Mayor Michael McCabe told the room and viewers, “The Part 150 was never going to address your concerns,” and called for alternative noise reduction solutions.

The council is interested in controlling the volume of aircraft using the airport and concerned that discounts and services offered at Naples Municipal might increase use of the airport and future operations growth. With multiple Part 150 studies completed and members of the public witnessing no tangible difference in noise, everyone wants to know what comes next.

When posed the question, Rozansky alluded to lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., and an FAR Part 161 access restriction study as a possible, albeit challenging, next step. Naples Mayor Teresa Lee Heitmann said the challenge is “one we are willing to take on.” If successful, the Part 161 study would allow mandatory restrictions to airport operations that could include a nighttime curfew.

But mandatory curfews and restrictions may be an elusive goal. “A Part 161 study is a multimillion-dollar, multiyear process,” said AOPA Government Affairs Aviation Policy Specialist Bill Dunn. “In my 34 years of airport advocacy, there has never been a successful conclusion to a Part 161 study that has allowed any mandatory airport restrictions to be implemented.”

AOPA supports the balanced approach that the Part 150 process takes to mitigate noise impacts while protecting airport access, and strongly opposes council suggestions to restrict operations. Naples Municipal Airport, like many successful, high-traffic general aviation airports across the United States, provides tremendous benefits to Florida’s southwestern region. A 2022 Florida Aviation Economic Impact Study found that the airport generates $781 million in economic activity and helps support nearly 6,000 jobs. It also accommodates critical public services like the Collier Mosquito Control District, Collier County Sheriff’s Office, Collier County EMS MedFlight, and an Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting station.

The airport is an integral alternative to the larger air carrier airports in southwest Florida. Personalized services with no crowds, less surrounding traffic, and less security hassle make it attractive for business passengers and student pilots alike. And Naples locals can benefit from access to youth STEM-education opportunities.

In the midst of the community wrestling over airport noise, local pilots and airport advocates have revived the Friends of Naples Municipal Airport. The organization’s mission is to ensure fair and accurate facts are available to the public as they relate to the airport and the community that it serves. AOPA has supported the efforts of the Friends of Naples Municipal Airport since its formation in 1999 and will continue to advocate for the Naples airport, and its users, to operate as allowed under federal statutes and regulations.

Source: | Written by Lillian Geil