Crestview's airport does more than provide a warm welcome to arriving and departing general aviation pilots and passengers. Businesses and industries pump millions into the local economy.

CRESTVIEW — Just as Niceville residents know an F-35’s roar is the sound of freedom, Northwest Crestview residents know an aircraft’s buzz comes from a local economic engine.

Bob Sikes Airport generates more than $174 million in payrolls and spending, a state aviation impact study reported.

Defense contractor L3 Crestview Aerospace has called the airport home since its earliest days as Fairchild-Hiller, when Vietnam War jets used its landing strip, and Lockheed-Martin moved into BAE’s former hangar to retrofit.

Thirty-plus-year tenant Sunshine Aero Flight Test, using its own air fleet, flies military payloads for testing, calibration and evaluation.

Sunshine Aero is part of Dr. Paul Hsu’s Crestview Technology Air Park, which the engineer plans to expand to include technology industries and an educational component. Educators from Northwest Florida State College and the university of West Florida plan an April C-TAP tour.

On the runway’s opposite end, Tepper Aviation, next door to Crestview Aerospace, performs similar functions as Sunshine, flight-testing aircraft for defense contractors.

Midway along the runway, while companies like Lockheed-Martin and Crestview Aerospace build better planes, Qwest Air Parts disassembles aircraft and sells the parts.

Lockheed’s conversion of C-130 aircraft into gunships for special operations is a 24-hour-a-day project, Okaloosa Airports Deputy Director Mike Stenson said. The program has employed more than 200 workers and, “a couple months ago, these jobs were non-existent,” Okaloosa County Airports Director Tracy Stage said.

Not all of Bob Sikes Airport’s business is up in the air. Bay State Cable Ties used state and county business development incentives and relocated there from Massachusetts.

Next door, long-time tenant Asurion employs hundreds of workers in a consumer warranty call center.

Off John Givens Road is the Okaloosa County Industrial Air Park, where Custom Production manufactures metal components for diverse industries, including high-end bicycles and garden furniture.

Pre-approved hangar and industrial sites along Bob Sikes’ taxiway generate interest in businesses seeking to relocate, Stage said.

“We’re trying to attract businesses that want access to the airfield, and to support businesses in the air park that want to support airfield businesses,” he said.

One of the biggest attractions, Stage said, is “we don’t have a problem at Bob Sikes with encroachment.”

“Performing major modification and testing of aircraft is not an issue,” Stage said. “The airport and its boundaries have been protected to make a strong engine for economic growth.”




● Total employment: 2,791

● Direct impacts from airport tenants/businesses and construction: $174,324,000

● Indirect impacts from visitors who arrive by general aviation aircraft: $1,853,000

● Multiplier impacts: $117,516,000

● Total payroll: $108,208,000

● Total output: $293,693,000

Source: Florida Statewide Aviation Economic Impact Study, August 2014



IATA Airport Code: CEW

Runway ID: 17/35 (17 is north end, 35 is south end)

Runway length: 8,004 feet (2,440 meters, or 1.5 miles)

Runway width: 150 feet (46 meters)

Runway elevation: 213 to 153 feet, north to south


Listed by distance from Crestview Bob Sikes Airport (CEW), with runway lengths in comparison to CEW’s 8,004 feet.

DeFuniak Springs Airport (54J): 4,146-foot runway

Florala (Ala.) Municipal Airport (OJ4): 3,197-foot runway

Destin Airport (DTS): 5,001-foot runway

Peter Prince Field, Milton (2R4): 3,701-foot runway

Fort Walton Beach Airport (1J9): 2,100-foot runway

Brewton (Ala.) Municipal Airport (12J): 5,136-foot runway

Logan Field, Sampson, Ala. (1A4): 3,596-foot runway

South Alabama Regional Airport, Andalusia (79J): 6,000-foot runway

Geneva (Ala.) Municipal Airport (33J): 3,998-foot runway

Source: Global Aviation Navigator, Inc.



Oct. 3, 1929: The Okaloosa Messenger encourages city leaders to improve Savage Field, the city’s landing strip on Juke Hill, where Big Lots and Day’s Tire center are presently located, built on the site of the Savage turpentine still operation.

1937: Crestview Airport’s runway is constructed around the site of present-day Crestview High School. The Civil Aeronautics Authority selects it as an emergency landing field for heavy traffic between New Orleans and Jacksonville. Modern equipment includes a radio beam approach signal and a beacon that could be seen from Alabama in clear weather.

c. 1944: Crestview gets a celebrity visit when entertainer Bob Hope is driven by car from weather-bound Mobile to meet his plane at Municipal Field. An airport worker quickly spread word that Hope was coming, resulting in a large crowd awaiting his arrival.

1944: Johnny Ridgway established Ridgway Flying Service at Municipal Airport, becoming Crestview airports’ first official fixed-base operator.

Spring 1946: The town of Crestview takes over ownership of Municipal Airport from the CAA. Controversy erupts when a resident claims Ridgway’s $2 per hour flying charge for commercial users is too high.

June 28, 1946: The largest plane to date lands in Crestview when a Navy version of the B-24 Liberator bomber lands at Municipal Airport in foul weather.

1961: Okaloosa County Airport and Industrial Commission is established for operating Municipal Airport and surrounding land. Plans are made to move the airport to the Fairchild-Hiller landing strip at the present Bob Sikes Airport location.

Early 1964: Bob Sikes Airport’s Flight Service Station, or FBO, is opened.

May 22, 1965: Bob Sikes Airport is dedicated and officially begins public operations. Airport tenants include the Federal Aviation Agency, Fairchild-Hiller, Republic Aviation Corp. and Brand Flying Services.

Oct. 2010: The world’s third-largest aircraft, an Antonov An-124, delivers a payload of helicopters bound for Fort Rucker at Bob Sikes Airport

Source: “Crestview: The Forkland,” by Betty Curenton and Claudia Patten, reprinted 2016