Jack Edwards Airport has new name and air traffic control tower

By Melanie LeCroy / melanie@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 11/17/21

Members of the community, local and state officials gathered at the base of the recently completed air traffic control tower in Gulf Shores for a ribbon cutting celebration Nov. 10. During the event …

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Jack Edwards Airport has new name and air traffic control tower

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Members of the community, local and state officials gathered at the base of the recently completed air traffic control tower in Gulf Shores for a ribbon cutting celebration Nov. 10. During the event the airport’s new name, logo and brand campaign were revealed after weeks of secrecy.

“People were poking around trying to figure out what the name was and one reporter asked, ‘will it be regional, national or international’ and I said yes,” Scott Fuller, airport manager, said as the crowd laughed.

The airport, known as Jack Edwards Airport since 1981, has a new name: Gulf Shores International Airport. The airport will continue to be associated with the late Alabama congressman with the airfield taking the name Jack Edwards Field.

The air traffic control tower has been a long-term goal of The Airport Authority to increase the safety at the second busiest airport in Alabama. The $6.1 million project was 100% funded by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the CARES Act secured by the joint efforts of Sen. Richard Shelby and U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne. The 95-foot-tall tower is staffed with two air traffic controllers working eight-hour shifts from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The next phase of the project is the building of a passenger terminal and according to Fuller, the Airport Authority is in the selection process for the firm that will design, build and operate it. He went on to say that the firms have established relationships with airlines and would help market the airport. He estimates the passenger terminal will cost around $15 million.

During the groundbreaking ceremony in September 2020, John Pearsall, CEO of Elite Airways, said his company intended to begin scheduled flight service in and out of Gulf Shores but would not release details on the destinations or timeline. Fuller would not comment on any current airline commitments but did say everything is contingent on the new terminal completion and details will be forthcoming when that point is near.

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said he feels that commercial flights to Gulf Shores are one of the key components to easing the traffic issues the area contends with during the summer and will also help reach a broader market.

“When we bring people in here, they have to leave here with a different opinion of the state of Alabama. There is no place that I have ever been that people are as friendly and as open and when we bring folks in here from out of the area they cannot believe that this is Alabama. It’s part of our opportunity to show the world what Alabama is, and I think that is really important and we are proud we can do that,” Craft said.

Of the future, Byrne said, “I am looking forward to coming back to the terminal. I am looking forward to clipping a ribbon for that too. In some way we have to make sure that our new senator, whoever that is going to be, that we can get that money together too. One of these days I am going to look forward to instead of driving down here, I am going to fly in here. That is going to be really cool.”

Tower facts:

  • Nearly 2 million pounds of concrete used, 500,000 pounds of concrete distributing the load to a compacted stone pier foundation.
  • Each of the precast wall panels are 1 foot thick (42,000 pounds – 21 tons)
  • 120 total steps
  • Laminated glazing one-inch-thick windows weighing 500 pounds per pane
  • Controllers can see all movement areas on the airport
  • Structure weighs over 2 million pounds
  • Over 6 miles of copper electrical and communications wiring
  • State of the art communications system, technology equivalent to the Pensacola tower
  • Aircraft can talk to the tower 30 miles out
  • Over 100 Alabama companies had a part in the design and construction
  • FAA provides and funds air traffic controller staffing