Archived Feature Stories

Jacksonville Airports Contribute $6 Billion to the Florida Economy

Jacksonville, FL, April 3, 2019 – A new economic impact study by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) found that Jacksonville Aviation Authority’s (JAA) four-airport system contributes more than $6 billion annually to the local economy.

The Florida Statewide Aviation Economic Impact Study measured the benefits of on-airport impacts, visitor spending impacts, and multiplier impacts of Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (JAXEX), Cecil Airport, and Herlong Recreational Airports.

“As this FDOT study shows, our aviation system is a significant contributor to Northeast Florida’s economy,” said JAA CEO Mark VanLoh. “The expected growth at each of our four airports will continue fueling the region’s financial health.”  

The report was prepared as part of the Florida Aviation System Plan’s (FASP) 2018 update and provided the estimated annual economic impact on Florida’s 20 commercial service airports, 100 public-use general aviation airports, and 11 military aviation facilities. A total economic impact of $175 billion dollars is generated annually by aviation in Florida. 

Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) generates $3,194,422,000, the highest economic impact of the four airports the JAA operates. It supports 26,396 jobs generating a payroll of close to one billion dollars. The airport also offers educational tours and an internship program through local colleges. 

The Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (JAXEX) created 885 jobs, establishing a payroll of close to $33 million and provides an economic impact of over $100 million. Given its location between downtown Jacksonville and the beach, the airport attracts corporate and business users, and is home to several flight schools. 

Cecil Airport provides Northeast Florida with an economic impact of close to $3 billion, over 11,000 jobs and a total payroll of close to $700 million. Cecil Airport is a public joint civil-military airport and spaceport serving military aircraft, corporate aircraft, general aviation, and air cargo. 

Herlong Recreational is JAA’s smallest airport but still provides Florida with an economic impact of $52,471,000 and created 379 jobs with a total payroll of over $16 million.  This airport has been Northeast Florida’s primary location for light sport aircraft, skydiving, gliders, and other experimental aircraft since the 1960’s. It is home to the Soaring Society Glider Club and supports a private charter company, a flight school, skydiving business, and a maintenance shop. 

For more information about the economic impact studies, visit

Award received for rehabilitation and clean-up of the Cecil Commerce Center

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority, City of Jacksonville, US Navy, and environmental partners recently received an award for the rehabilitation and clean-up of the Cecil Commerce Center from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Cecil Airport Wildlife Hazard Assessment

Cecil Airport is in the process of starting a 12 month long Wildlife Hazard Assessment of the airport.

To conduct a Wildlife Hazard Assessment (WHA), Environmental Resource Solutions, Inc. (ERS), our consultants, will diligently follow the five-step process indicated in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 14-Part 139-337, ensuring that the VQQ WHA will be fully compliant with all FAA mandates related to WHAs. The five steps in securing FAA approval are initial analysis, identification of potentially hazardous wildlife species, identification and location of wildlife attractants, results and recommendations, and employee training.

Preparation for the WHA is spent conducting several months of surveys to identify the species utilizing VQQ property, how species occurrence may change with each season, and their movements and patterns onsite, as well as offsite. This will be accomplished through Fixed-Point Surveys, General Observations, Night Spotlight Surveys, and Small-mammal Transects.

ERS will also utilize the following data sources and onsite reconnaissance: Recent aerial photographs or aerial surveys, Interviews with airport personnel, Observations during the fixed-point surveys, and General inspections of on-site and off-site areas.

Recommendations will include those for habitat management, wildlife permitting, and wildlife control and removal, with suggested control measures for specific species observed at VQQ during the assessment. Upon VQQ approval of the WHA report, it will be forwarded to FAA.

Helopad Certification

The Cecil Airport Operations Department recently received the approval from the FAA for the Certification of landing sites at our existing helopads previously not recognized by the FAA. This process included inspection by the FDOT Aviation Office as well as FAA Flight Procedures personnel. Cecil Airports meet and exceed the recommended configuration for a helicopter landing location for daytime use. With this certification the helopads will be published in the FAA Airport Facilities Directory with direction of flight and restrictions for direction of launch and landing on helopad 1, please do not fly into the control tower.

Aviation Career Education Camp at Cecil Airport

Over 35 high school students visited Cecil Airport during a week long camp focused on giving young people broad exposure to the wide variety of aviation career opportunities. Representing several local schools, the students spent the day learning how to control air traffic with the Florida State College of Jacksonville's ATC simulators. They also toured the Aviation Center of Excellence and learned about aviation maintenance.

The Aviation Career Education (ACE) camp, which was held from June 25-29, is in its fifth year of operation. Students visit three of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority's four airports: Jacksonville International Airport, Cecil Airport, Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (JAXEX), along with the air traffic control center in Hilliard and the Florida Air National Guard. In addition, they participate in group activities that include designing an airport, professional development and teamwork. The week culminates in a flight around Jacksonville where campers take the controls of an aircraft provided by one of the flight schools based at JAXEX.

Inaugural First Coast Defense Expo

On October 16, the Florida League of Defense Contractors held their inaugural First Coast Defense Expo at Cecil Airport.  The Jacksonville JetPort hosted the nearly 325 attendees in their newly constructed hangar.

The event provided a powerful opportunity for regional defense contractors and suppliers to showcase their capabilities to national prime defense contractors. 

In addition, a town hall style discussion on the importance and role of the defense industry to national security and the economy was conducted.

 Participants on the panel included Congressman Ander Crenshaw, Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, Jacksonville’s Mayor Alvin Brown and key industry representatives. 

“The First Coast is an anchor to our national security -- a standing not possible without the dedication of our men and women in uniform and the support and expertise of the companies that make up our regional defense industrial base,” said Crenshaw. “Events like this are a fabulous opportunity to view exhibits, network, participate in workshops and meet the people who play a central role in supporting the mission of our men and women in uniform wherever they serve."

Thirty-five sponsors and exhibitors including General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Fleet Readiness Center Southeast and Boeing were set up inside the hangar.  A static display of seven aircraft, a Cougar ISS armored vehicle and a Go-Fast boat added flavor to the event.

Given the success of this inaugural event, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority looks forward to the opportunity of hosting the expo on an annual basis.

Boeing Celebrates QF-16 Program Accomplishments

The QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target program hosted a ceremony August 31 at Boeing's Cecil Airport facility in Jacksonville, Fla., to celebrate program accomplishments before the next contract phase, which is planned to begin in 2013.

The program is developing a higher performing target jet that can be flown manned or unmanned to help evaluate how U.S. fighters and weapons operate against potential adversaries.

Participants acknowledged employees' efforts in the program's success. After installing over 3,000 new wires for the first QF-16 conversion, the program turned power on in late 2011 and had a successful first manned flight in May.

"The important work you're doing on the QF-16 program is one example of innovation that is important not only to the U.S. Air Force but also to the state of Florida," said U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla.

"Today's celebration signals a continued commitment between The Boeing Company, our customer and our supplier partners," Torbjorn Sjogren, Global Maintenance & Upgrades vice president, said.

U.S. Air Force customer Randy Brown, director, Armament Directorate, joined employees for the event along with a number of Florida state and local officials including Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, representatives from the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and community leaders.

Boeing won the $72 million contract in March 2010. In this initial phase of the contract, Boeing is performing pre-engineering, manufacturing and development to convert six F-16s into QF-16 aerial targets for the Air Force.

The Air Force will begin the next level of testing in Phase II of the contract at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in 2013. Boeing will support the initial flight testing at Tyndall then later at Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

By Wendy Parker, Boeing PR

Florida Governor Signs Spaceport Bill at Cecil Airport

Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 59 officially declaring Cecil Spaceport a designated Space Territory.  The bill was passed by Florida lawmakers during the 2012 legislative session as an initiative to develop Florida’s aerospace industries and will provide funding opportunities for Spaceport facilities and infrastructure. 


“It is critical that we continue to focus on and invest in infrastructure projects that will directly benefit our state’s economy.  Having Cecil Airport designated as a spaceport will play a major role in the continued development of Florida’s aerospace and aviation industries and will continue to keep our economy heading in the right direction.” said Scott.


The Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) has been working for over six years in acquiring this designation which began with obtaining the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Spaceport license for horizontal operations.  Cecil Spaceport now joins two other designated Space Territories in the state – Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Eglin Air Force Base.


The JAA is also the first Spaceport in the country to complete an official Spaceport Master Plan and continues to search for a qualified operator.

JAA Hosts Spaceport Development Summit

In March, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority hosted its first Cecil Spaceport Development Summit.  The goal of the two day event was to educate participants about commercial spaceport goals and needs of the area.  Among the 140 participants were aerospace executives, City, and State elected officials, and local universities.  Topics in the forum sessions covered the future of space travel, workforce needs, and incentives for companies to locate in Jacksonville.  The Summit concluded with a tour of Cecil Commerce Center and Cecil Airport.  Companies that attended included XCOR Aerospace, The Rocketplane and Masten Space Systems.  Featured speakers for the event included Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Juan Merkt, Aerospace Chairman at Jacksonville University, and Jerry Mallot, President of JaxUsa Partnership.

Cecil Continues to be an Economic Driver

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) has contracted C.C. Borden Construction, Inc. to build hangar 915 at Cecil Airport.  The hangar will be a 33,000 square foot maintenance hangar with associated office, workshop, aircraft hangar and apron area.   Hangar construction is forecasted to be complete in March 2013. 

KCI Aviation, an aircraft maintenance provider, has signed an agreement with the JAA to lease the new facility.  The company currently has aircraft maintenance facilities in West Virginia and Oklahoma.  This third location at Cecil Airport is projected to bring an estimated 40 new jobs to the Jacksonville area with a direct economic impact of $2.2 million annually.  KCI Aviation expects to start Jacksonville operations immediately after hangar construction.

A Look at the Past, Present and Future!

Cecil Airport and its facilities have served this community with distinction for over 70 years.  The airport has a rich and long tradition of aviation history.  Starting out as a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) in 1941, the main mission was military flight training.  Today, Cecil Airport supports high tech systems and aviation training, governmental and civilian aviation operations and aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul activities.  Through the years, most of the airport facilities and infrastructure have been revived and are a productive part of the airport today.    

Completed in 1942, Hangar 13 provided a base of aviation training, maintenance, and operations.  As seen in this 1955 photo, military aircraft were stored and serviced in the hangar.  Today the hangar is leased by the Department of Homeland Security and serves as a base of aviation operations for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Jacksonville JetPort, Inc. (JJP) is the airports Fixed Base Operator (FBO, provides aviation services to the tenants and operators of the airport).  JJP recently completed the construction of a new 14,500 square foot corporate hangar.  With this construction, an important milestone was achieved; while this hangar is the fifth new hangar since JAA ownership in 1999, it is the first one built using private funding and not FAA, FDOT or JAA dollars.  Within one month of being completed, the hangar was fully leased to several corporate and private aircraft owners.  This hangar facility provides a combination of office, workshop and hangar storage.

Future expectations for Cecil Airport are high!  From spaceport development to new aviation facilities the airport is poised to be an economic engine fueled by aviation companies from around the nation in need of a larger industrial airport with the right mix of location, business climate, and a skilled work force.  KCI Aviation, a perfect example of these types of companies, selected the airport to become their company’s third national location.  The Jacksonville Aviation Authority is committed to continued developments and building successful business partnerships.