53ºF

Navy planes, personnel ready to return to NAS Jax

2,000 people, 50 aircraft worked out of Cecil Field during runway overhaul

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of Navy personnel and the aircraft they work with will soon return to NAS Jacksonville. For the past year, they have worked out of Cecil Airport while a $50 million runway renovation project was completed.

Cecil Airport hosted a farewell luncheon Friday for sailors and Navy aviators before the sendoff.

The civilian general aviation facility had to add staff, make extra room and add security to accommodate the more than 2,000 Navy personnel and about 50 aircraft.

"It's been very busy, very hectic, and that's something Cecil wasn't used to," Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steven Grossman said.

Navy Capt. Howard Wanamaker said it took a lot of planning to move seven squadrons to their temporary airfield.

"To get the spaces ready, to ensure that we had all the right equipment and facilities here so that we could execute our mission," Wanamaker said. "It's only 30 minutes down the road, but it's like we were deployed over here at Cecil Airport."

The JAA worked with NAS Jacksonville to keep its squadrons close to home.

"They were going to have to relocated those squadrons all over the country and pay for housing and food, etc. The really nice thing about basing here at Cecil is all the crews and all the workers got to go home at night," Grossman said. 

The staff at Cecil said they're going to miss the hustle and bustle of Navy aviation going on right in their backyard.

"It's about Pride -- pride in what these young people in the Navy are doing for our country," Grossman said. "We got a first-hand look at it."

The Navy air crews are looking forward to their shiny new runway at NAS Jax, including 1,000 more feet on the existing runway, upgrades to the taxiways and new airfield lighting.

Navy personnel will be moving most of their planes back to NAS Jacksonville next week. They'll continue to work with Cecil Airport, having rented two hangars to do maintenance on some of its aircraft.