Arlington airport renamed again; will now be Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport

Jacksonville Executive Airport is dead. Long live Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport.

For the second time in three months the Jacksonville Aviation Authority has changed the name of the general aviation airport in Arlington off St. Johns Bluff Road, between Atlantic Boulevard and Monument Road.

In November the name was changed from Craig Municipal Airport to Jacksonville Executive Airport. The second name change occurred Monday morning when the JAA Board of Directors unanimously approved the new name.

Craig Municipal Airport remains on airport signs. Signs with the newest name are expected to go up later this year.

James Craig was a Jacksonville native who died aboard the USS Pennsylvania during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Local residents objected to his name being removed from the airport title.

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.

Local residents suspect the name change is a way for the airport to extend the runway. On Monday Executive Director Steve Grossman, who recommended both name changes to the board, said that was not true.

“Our staff is not pursuing a runway extension,” he said. “Nor is it in our capital improvement budget.”

Grossman faced an angry crowd of over 100 people last week at a public meeting. Residents at the meeting opposed changing the name of the airport, and said they believed the name change was a plot to extend the runway.

Jacksonville City Council members John Crescimbeni and Clay Yarborough, who were at last weeks meeting, and also attended Monday’s Airport Authority meeting, asked the board to change the name back to Craig Municipal Airport.

“The citizens don’t believe you,” Crescimbeni said. “when you say you’re not pursuing a runway extension.”

People in Arlington want the name of the airport to stay the same, and acceding to their wishes would be a good way to rebuild public trust, he said.

It’s also unlikely a name change would lead to more business at the airport, Crescimbeni said.

But Grossman disagreed, and said a rebranding would increase the number of flights and businesses at the facility.

JAA Chairman Ernest Isaac also said there was no plan to extend the runway, and residents didn’t have to worry about the authority extending it surreptitiously.

“If that ever comes up we’ll have a dialogue with the community before anything happens,” Isaac said.

JAA has launched a $155,000 rebranding effort to attract more business at all of it’s airports.

On the Westside, Cecil Field will become Cecil Airport and Herlong Airport will become Herlong Recreational Airport. Jacksonville International Airport’s name will stay the same.

The JAA also has a new logo, the symbol of an airplane with four slash marks representing the four airports.

The new logo also dovetails with the authority’s plans for marking its 10th anniversary in 2011. The Legislature created the aviation authority by splitting the airports from the Jacksonville Port Authority.