As NAS Jax plans move to Cecil Airport, JAA prepares with traffic improvements
Feb 24, 2015
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Preparations are well underway at Cecil Airport, which will get a busy new tenant this summer: The U.S. Navy.

As Naval Air Station Jacksonville plans to improve its runway, taxiway and airfield lighting, staff and aircraft will be relocated to Cecil Airport, where a support detachment can operate.

The lease agreement between the Navy and Cecil is for at least one year, with a six month option that will likely be used, said Steve Grossman, CEO of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, at a recent board meeting.

So far, 4,000 employees, contractors and personnel have been badged for the facility.

"Cecil could well be in the 10 busiest airports for that year," Grossman said.

About 1 million square feet of ramp space is being leased by the Navy, said Rusty Chandler, executive director at Cecil Airport. Five vacant buildings will be leased from Cecil itself and the Navy is looking at leasing other buildings from existing tenants. Although all of its hangars are already being leased, the Navy is in talks with leasing a hangar from a tenant and will possibly bring in a mobile hangar, Chandler said.

One of the major changes being made is adding drive lanes, stop signs and more vehicle control to the facility to prevent any disruption of naval aircraft.

"We want to control vehicle traffic so it doesn't mess up Navy air traffic," Chandler said. "Now it won't be as wide open and we can keep vehicles corralled."

Traffic in the area will increase overall, Chandler said, which means more Jacksonville Sheriff's Office presence to monitor traffic flow on the public side and not disrupt tenants' activity.

Minor improvements, like repairing roofs and doing some painting, are already underway at Cecil. Other modifications, like preparing for a different theory of operation on the airside, were also made.

The air traffic control tower will begin operating 24 hours a day, rather than closing at 10 p.m. Chandler said he does not expect too much noise pollution, as several of the Navy fixed-wing aircraft coming to the area fly relatively quietly. Still, the aviation authority is working with and educating the community on the move.

Improvements to Naval Air Station Jacksonville will begin in June, and should take about 13 months, according to a statement from the air station. The last major runway overhaul was in 1967, and a concrete repair was done in 1986.