Charlotte County Airport and Punta Gorda Army Air Field
Planning by government officials for Punta Gorda Army Air Field began in 1941 for a combat pilot training field, and by 1944, reached its peak in housing 1,000 persons, including two squadrons of student pilots.
The base had forty Curtis P-40 “Warhawk” aircraft and later changed to North American P-51 “Mustang” aircraft which were a part of the 3rd Air Force, 3rd Fighter Command at Drew Field (now Tampa International Airport). The Base also had C-45 and C-47 transports.
The Curtis P-40 “Warhawk” and the North American P-51 “Mustang” were assigned as part of the final flight training for pilots who were soon sent overseas to fight the war in these famed aircraft.
All base officers and some upper Non Commissioned Officers (NCO’s) lived in Punta Gorda while all student officers and most enlisted men lived in tent structures. Buildings included operation headquarters, classrooms, supply, fire station, dispensary, chapel and a control tower. The base had nose hangars, where just the nose of the plane was under shelter for repairs.
After the war the airport complex was turned over to Charlotte County by the War Assets Administration and was managed by the Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners. In 1965 the State Legislature created the Charlotte County Development Authority which was an independent special district with taxing authority. The Enabling Legislation was amended several times over the years and in 1993 the taxing authority was revoked. In 1998 the legislation was re-codified and the name was changed to the Charlotte County Airport Authority. In 2011 legislation was re-codified again that allowed for the Airport Authority to change the name of the Airport from the Charlotte County Airport to the Punta Gorda Airport. The Airport operates in the black on the revenues it receives from fuel sales, hangar rents, rental car revenue, parking fees, land and building leases.
In 2007 commercial airline service was restored. The Airport Authority owns over 1800 acres. The airfield consists of three runways with the longest at 7,195 feet in length. In 2009 taxiways “A” and “C” were resurfaced and widened to 60 feet. The entire main ramp which consisted of pavement from WWII has been replaced. There are 217 T-hangars on the field and many aviation related businesses. On the non-aviation side companies such as FedEx, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, SuperTrak, Pulsafeeder and the Punta Gorda Speedway are located here. There are approximately 750 people employed by businesses located at on Airport Authority property. The Piper Road realignment and widening was completed in 2011 that will open up hundreds of acres for development. The Enterprise Charlotte Airport Park is becoming the hub for economic development in the County. Commercial commerce centers have been developed in the area and are growing.