March 2, 2009

When Fort Lauderdale officials accepted the deed to West Prospect Field in 1947, the former Navy pilot training station was far removed from the city, but by 1959, the field was renamed Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE) to better identify the airport’s mission of serving businesses of all sizes, and today, FXE’s nearly 1,200 acres sit squarely inside the city limits, with the downtown only five miles to the south.

With more than 450 hangars, FXE is home to 700 aircraft, including more than a dozen helicopters. As a designated reliever airport, FXE has a 24-hour tower that annually controls an average of 200,000 operations, 80 percent of them transients, making FXE the nation’s fourth busiest general aviation (GA) airport, after California’s Van Nuys (VNY) and Florida’s Daytona Beach (DAB) and Kendall-Tamiami (TMB). U.S. Customs, aircraft rescue, firefighting and police services all are stationed on the airport. Operators can choose from among six full-service FBOs and many nearby hotel, conference and restaurant choices.

With abundant traffic and two runways – the 6,000-by-100-foot Runway 8/26 with ILS and L/VNAV GPS approaches and the 4,000-by-100-foot Runway 13/31 – FXE late last year created a Runway Safety Action Team (RSAT), says Assistant Airport Manager Mark Cervasio. The RSAT’s purpose is collecting operator input to devise the most effective methods of preventing runway incursions. “And we’re serious about noise,” Cervasio added. “We have a full-time noise abatement officer, and in the early 90s we were the beta-test site for ANOMS,” the airport noise and operation monitoring system in use at FXE and around the world. 

Noting that “GA airports have to justify their existence” often, Cervasio says FXE’s 10-member airport advisory board facilitates that effort. Appointed by the city commissioners, the board is a diverse group of business and community leaders that examines the “nuts and bolts of airport recommendations” before it forwards them with suggestions to the city commission.

Recent advisory board recommendations have made FXE greener, for example. New LED taxiway lights save roughly $18,000 annually in energy and maintenance. The new 7,200-square-foot airport equipment facility is built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines, reducing its overall energy costs up to 20 percent. FXE also is preserving the airport habitat of the rare gopher tortoise and Florida burrowing owl.

Measured by the number of people he sees everyday, Cervasio says, FXE’s large observation area, built in 1998, is one of the advisory board’s most popular recommendations to promote the airport and aviation in general to the surrounding community. With an elevated platform and tower speaker, it is a favorite destination for lunchtime visitors and students on field trips.

The airport and its tenants also participate in career days at area schools and hold airport events, like the Challenge Air Community Fly Day, to remind their neighbors that the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport contributes more to the community than just aerial commerce.