Since the 1920s, there has reportedly been airplanes flying to and from Naples and the surrounding community. The local golf courses and the beach were used as landing strips in those early days.
It was not until World War II that aviation formally came to Naples. The City of Naples and Collier County had purchased the land to build an airport and leased it to the U.S. government in support of the war effort. An Air Corps base built in the northeast part of the city served as a base of operations for training gunners, bomber crews and fighter pilots for combat. Construction on the “Naples Airdrome” was started in 1942 and was operational in December 1943. However, once the War ended in 1945, the Naples Airdrome was no longer needed by the military.
By 1947, the field, with its runways, ramps, barracks and other improvements, was returned to the city and county as had been agreed upon previously. Collier County and the City of Naples jointly operated the airport until the county sold its interests to the city in 1958.
Since the 1950s, the Naples Municipal Airport has served as a home to private aviation and aviation-related businesses. It was also during this time that a Massachusetts air taxi operator, Provincetown-Boston Airlines, saw an opportunity to shorten the more than two-hour trip through the Everglades to Miami. His business venture allowed Naples residents to reach Miami in just 30 minutes. The airline grew and the company assumed management of the airport.
By the late 1960’s, the airport was costing the city nearly $200,000 per year to operate, which lead to the concept of forming an airport authority.
In 1969, the Naples City Council asked the Florida Legislature to create an independent authority whose members would be appointed by City Council. The management and operating power of the airport was transferred from the City of Naples to the City of Naples Airport Authority under a 99-year lease. The City of Naples Airport Authority was given no taxing authority and had to pay their way by generating their own revenues. Since the authority’s formation, the Naples Municipal Airport has operated in the “black” with revenues generated from airport users as well as state and federal grants.
Today, the Naples Municipal Airport is a fully certificated air carrier airport. It is home to one air carrier, fire/rescue services, Mosquito Control, car rental agencies, the Collier County Sheriff’s Aviation Unit, flight schools, the Collier County Humane Society, and other aviation and non-aviation businesses. A staff of approximately 88 oversees flight operations, finance, accounting, administrative, marketing & communications, airport development, maintenance, and human resource functions.
What began as a military airfield has become one of the nation’s most innovative small airports, known for its safety and noise abatement initiatives. In 1999, the airport received the Federal Aviation Administration’s highest award for safety when it was named the Southern Region’s Air Carrier Safety Award recipient. Less than a month later in March 1999, the airport was the first in the nation, since the 1990 Airport Noise and Capacity Act became law, to successfully ban Stage 1 aircraft. In 2001, the airport became the first airport in the country to complete and submit to the FAA a Part 161 Study. As a result, Stage 2 jet aircraft under 75,000 lbs. were also banned from the airport.
With its rich history and numerous honors, it’s no wonder that the airport staff calls the Naples Municipal Airport “The Best ‘Little’ Airport in the Country.”
Naples played a big role in training pilots during the war – click here
Air tragedy at Hurricane Pass – click here
Pilots, Pinballs and Politics: The History of Naples Municipal Airport by Nancy B. Fessenden
Here is the story of an airport and it’s people. Follow the making of an airfield, hollowed out in the sawgrass and swamps of Collier County. From alligator wrestling, bivouacs and beach parties to tragedies, hurricanes, and disasters, learn all about the life at Naples Airdrome. Here is the sweeping story of an airport, from military occupation in 1941 to aviation’s premier destination for the rich and famous in the 1980s. Here is a rich fascinating history of the Naples Municipal Airport’s spirit and mission to the world of aviation.