Operation Airdrop Ferries Supplies to Hurricane-Ravaged Florida Island

In the wake of Hurricane Ian, Naples Airport has become a base for disaster relief efforts

A week ago, Naples Municipal Airport (KAPF) in Naples, Florida, was under water because of Hurricane Ian. Today, the airport is being used as a base for Operation Airdrop, bringing much-needed supplies to Pine Island, a community decimated by the storm.

The bridge that connects Pine Island to Fort Myers was heavily damaged by the storm, making the island only accessible by boat or aircraft. The island is southwest Florida’s largest island measuring 17 miles long and 2 miles wide.

This week, the community turned out bringing much-needed supplies to the Naples Airport.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of our community, which itself is still recovering from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ian,” said Naples Airport Authority executive director Chris Rozansky. “In one day the community came together and collected over 15 pallets of critically needed food, water, cleaning supplies, and more for the people of Pine Island.”

Because of the tremendous response, the decision was made to take the supplies to the island by boat rather than aircraft. The Cajun Navy, an informal group of private boat owners who volunteer to assist in disaster relief efforts, will deliver the supplies.

At the height of the hurricane, the runway at Naples Airport resembled a lake. The airport has a field elevation of 8 feet msl, and the storm surge caused damage to the airport signage and lighting system. When the water receded, airport crews immediately started repairs to allow the facility to reopen at least on a limited basis.

According to airnav.com, there are 352 aircraft based at the field. It is not known how many were there when the storm hit, or if there was any damage to them or to airport buildings.

Naples Municipal Airport covers 732 acres, and is home to flight schools, air charter operators, car rental agencies, and corporate aviation and non-aviation businesses. The airport is also a central location for public services, including fire/rescue, mosquito control, and the Collier County Sheriff’s Aviation Unit. The airport has three runways: 5/23, measuring 6,600 feet by 150 feet, Runway 14/32, measuring 5,000 feet by 100 feet, and a turf runway designated SW/NE, measuring 1,850 feet by 100 feet.

According to flynaples.com, “The airport also prides itself on being the hub of emergency staging during natural disasters, like hurricanes and tornadoes, for first responders, lighting, and power crews.”

The airport is self-sustaining, as all funds used for the airport’s operation, maintenance, and improvements are generated from activities at the airport or federal and state grants from aviation-related user fees. The Florida Department of Transportation values the airport’s annual economic impact to the community at more than $440 million. For more information, or to subscribe to email updates from the airport, visit www.FlyNaples.com.


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