Destin Executive Airport may consist of a single runway, but don’t let that fool you. The airport averages 175 operations a day, with a diverse fleet mix including jets, trainers and private aviators. Nicknamed “Gateway to the Emerald Coast”, Destin’s airport supports a number of thriving resort communities, lined by some of the South’s most beautiful beaches. The airport also lies just five miles southeast of Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport and Eglin Air Force Base – one of the busiest bases in the country. This has given rise to emerging needs to accommodate the influx of tourists and snowbirds.
Okaloosa County, the owner and operator of the airport, saw these needs on the horizon and began working toward enhancing the facility. They started by seeking entry into the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Contract Tower Program and working toward constructing its own tower. At this time, the Destin Executive Airport had been supported by the Eglin Radar Control Facility. However, due to its proximity to Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport/Eglin Air Force Base, increasing air traffic, and the diversified aircraft performance fleet mix in the Destin area, Okaloosa County proposed the construction of a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT). Still, there was much preparation required before this could become a possibility.
RS&H had been serving the facility with general aviation needs for some time before being retained as a General Consultant and began planning several projects to help plan for Destin Airport’s goal of constructing its own ATCT. This included an airspace study, recommendation of zoning language for private aviation operations, and an ATCT siting study, accompanied by an environmental assessment.
Once these projects were completed, Okaloosa County was able to gain FAA approval on the designated optimal location for the tower. The site approval included production of the Safety Risk Management Document for FAA’s Air Traffic Organization’s safety management system review process. RS&H then helped to design and construct the tower, which is expected to reduce reliance on outside towers and increase safety, as traffic in and out of the airport continues to expand.
Once completed, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the tower, with both local residents and public officials in attendance. The tower is named for renowned pilot Lt. Gen. Leroy J. Manor of Shalimar, whose 36-year military career includes flying 72 combat missions in P-47s over Europe during World War II and 275 combat missions in F-100s during the Vietnam War. Manor was also in attendance at the ribbon-cutting and was honored to have his name adorning the tower.