HISTORY OF AIRLINE SERVICE AT MARCO ISLAND, FLORIDA
Part one: 1965-1972
Marco Island is one of many communities across the Sunshine State that once enjoyed but no longer has regularly scheduled airline service. Located on the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida, Marco Island saw massive real estate development in the 1960s and 1970s, transforming the once sleepy tropical island into a booming vacation and retirement resort. With this real estate and tourist boom came the need for airline service. In the unusual case of Marco Island, air service in the 1970s and early 1980s was directly controlled by the principal developer, the Deltona Corporation, which formed its own airline subsidiary and built private airports to bring tourists and potential investors to the island. Part one covers the early years and airlines before the formation of Marco Island Airways.
The original Marco Island Airport was a temporary airstrip built during the summer of 1965 and was located near the beach on what is now Landmark Street. It was two blocks away from the Deltona sales office and served to bring potential buyers to the island. This view from a film about Marco Island shows the single runway in the middle of the otherwise verdant landscape. This is facing south.
Here's a closer view of the airstrip facing south with the beach visible at right. Courtesy of the Marco Island Historical Society with thanks to Heather Otis.
Within months of the completion of the airport, Naples Airlines began scheduled flights to Miami and Ft. Myers on December 1, 1965 using vintage Lockheed Model 10 Electras, the same aircraft type used by Amelia Earhart on her attempted around-the-world flight nearly 3 decades earlier.
A second, larger airport was constructed in the center of the island in 1968 between what is now San Marco Road, North Collier Blvd. and Bald Eagle Dr. In this view, the site of the first temporary airstrip is labelled 1 and the new runway is seen to the northeast. Photo courtesy of the Marco Island Historical Society with thanks to Heather Otis.
The small building in the next two photos served as the original passenger terminal. This 1969 view was taken by Bryan Donaldson, courtesy of the Marco Island Historical Society with special thanks to Austin Bell.
Here's a close up view of the Marco Island Airport terminal in 1969. I can't make out what the sign next to the door says, but the large letters say Naples Airlines. Photograph by Bryan Donaldson, courtesy of the Marco Island Historical Society with special thanks to Austin Bell.
Naples Airlines timetable, effective for all of 1968, shows three daily round-trip flights between Marco Island and Miami. In the early 1970s these flights were replaced with limousine ground transportation service that took passengers between Naples Airport and any location on Marco Island. From the collection of Antonio Bordoni via timetableimages.com
This February 13, 1969, aerial view of the Marco Island Airport terminal area shows just how little space was available.
Aerial view of Marco Island circa 1971, facing southwest, showing an astonishing amount of development. The airport can be seen as a single strip surrounded by undeveloped land near top center. The area of the original airport, which had been closed and redeveloped, was just above that in this photo and appears as a barren area parallel to the beach.
Executive Airlines started Marco Island service in May 1971 using Beechcraft B-99s. This newspaper clip shows the inaugural flight preparing to depart Miami.
Executive Airlines July 1, 1971 timetable shows a total of 4 flights a day (except Sunday) using Beechcraft B-99s: 3 non-stops to Miami and one flight to Ft. Myers with continuing service to Sarasota and Tampa. The airline discontinued all Florida flights on December 9, 1971.
American Air Taxi, or AAT, inaugurated Marco Island service on January 6, 1972. Their February 1, 1972 schedule shows three daily round trips between Marco Island and Miami using 4-engine deHavilland DH-114 Heron Skyliners.
AAT promotional photo from February 1972 showing Heron N510FW "Orange Blossom Commuter" on the ramp at Marco. Photo by Bryan Donaldson. Courtesy of the Marco Island Historical Society.
A fantastic shot from the same photo session showing Heron N510FW making a low pass down the Marco Island runway. Photo by Bryan Donaldson. Courtesy of the Marco Island Historical Society.
AAT Airlines advertisement from January 28, 1972 billing itself as "The Official Marco Island Commuter".
Coming up next: In part two of the airline history of Marco Island, the Deltona Corporation forms its own airline, bans the competition and builds a new airport north of the island.