Setting the record straight on activity at the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport during coronavirus times

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
March 27, 2020

Various rumors have taken flight on social media regarding an alleged increase in air traffic at the city’s general aviation airport since the recent coronavirus pandemic was announced and scheduled airline restrictions were imposed.

The information below was provided today by local officials who have the straight story:

According to City Airport Manager Nathan Coyle, “Traffic at the airport has been much slower than normal over the past week. Rumors that traffic at the airport are increasing, or that there have been more jets operating at the airport are simply not true. This time of the year is commonly a busy-season at the airport and, although I don’t have specific numbers to provide, in discussion with the FBO we would estimate that our transient charter traffic is roughly 95% less than what we would normally see this time of the year. Within the past week, the airport has received no passengers from the NY/Tri-state area. We received a jet earlier this week that stopped in NJ before arriving at Fernandina Beach and that jet picked up passengers from Fernandina Beach for transport to another location. I am aware of two charter flights today dropping off from the TN area I believe.

“Folks may have been observing continued local general aviation traffic as we have continued to see private pilots flying in and around the local area or region and we have continued to receive flight training operations from the airports in Jacksonville which fly up to conduct pattern work here.

“The airport and FBO are currently providing the state’s executive order to passengers and requesting that they contact Nassau County Department of Health when disembarking if arriving from areas identified in the current state executive order. I understand the County is considering additional guidelines for transportation by all modes and the airport will provide all assistance we can in meeting the requirements of any action the County implements.”

FBO operator Brian Echard added the following:

“The only thing I would add is that we closed the FBO and Terminal to the general public 10 days ago to limit the walk-in traffic and keep the building clean and disinfected.  Only transient pilots and passengers arriving or departing on a flight are allowed into the terminal until further notice.  In addition, the onsite Hertz Agency is closed to the general public until further notice.  Rental cars are still available to pilots and passengers with a reservation.”

To underscore how much air travel has fallen off during March, Coyle provided the following table from the Department of Homeland Security website comparing national statistics from last year against this year:

Suanne Thamm 4Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.