The Page Story
In 1923, the City of Fort Myers purchased a plot of land with the intention of making a golf course. However in 1927, the site actually evolved into an airport. National Airlines began making stops in 1937 on a St. Petersburg to Miami route, but service was suspended because the sod runways were useless during the summer's frequent rains.
In 1940, the Works Projects Administration built three concrete runways along with other improvements to the airport and service resumed. By the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the airport had grown to 618 acres and had been deeded over to Lee County in order to qualify for Works Progress Administration monies.
During World War II, Page Field was an important advanced fighter training base. The United States Army Air Corps named the field Fort Myers Army Air Base, although the official name was the Lee County Airport. Locals, however, referred to the facility by several different names, including Fort Myers Airport, Page Field and Palmetto Field. The latter name was utilized because of the many palmettos that dotted the airfield. On May 21, 1942, the Lee County Commission adopted a resolution changing the name to Page Field after a local World War I flying ace, Capt. Channing Page, the first Floridian to receive a commission into the Army Air Corps.
On March 31, 1942, the 98th Bombardment Group arrived with 400 men and supplies, followed eventually by the 93rd Bomber Group and the 336th Bomber Group. In January 1943, Page Field's role had changed to that of training fighter pilots. One year later, the production of fighter pilots was in full swing with 276 officers and 1,393 enlisted men stationed there. Fighter planes that were used for training included the P-39, P-47, P-40, and P-51.
In late 1945, many training facilities were closed down as the war came to a close. Fort Myers Army Air Base was no exception and closed its doors as a fighter training base that September. Lee County replaced the wooden army barracks with a small terminal in the mid-1950s, then expanded that terminal in 1960.
A new era of airline transportation arrived in the mid- and late-1970s, with a new terminal on the north side of the field and deregulation of the airline industry, which quickly taxed the capacities of both the airfield and the terminal. In May 1983, the new Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) was certified for operation and Page Field was designated a general aviation airport. Today, the former terminal is leased by various state government agencies that have located offices there.
During the mid-1990s, Page Field suffered from aging infrastructure, a severe lack of hangar space and growing financial debt. However, in a well-planned effort to return Page Field to its once prosperous state, the Lee County Port Authority initiated a 5-year plan to revitalize the airport. The plan included adding hangar facilities, repaving runways and parking aprons, adding airfield guidance signage, upgrading airfield lighting, leasing the vacated airline terminal building and developing non-aeronautical revenues.
Today, Page Field has been transformed into a thriving, prosperous, rapidly developing general aviation facility. On Aug. 31, 2011, a new general aviation terminal and FBO - Base Operations at Page Field - opened on the field's west side. The project included a 22,613-square-foot terminal building with first-class services and amenities for passengers and crews, executive conference room, seminar facility, easy access from runways with a new parallel taxiway, a new 24,000-square-foot itinerant aircraft hangar and 600,000 square feet of ramp space with exclusive business aircraft parking. A full-scale P-51 replica hangs from the ceiling in Base Operations and a fully restored AT-6 Texan trainer is displayed outside, paying homage to the airport’s history.
The Lee County Port Authority remains committed to maintaining Page Field as Southwest Florida's premier general aviation airport by providing the GA community and business travelers with safe and efficient operations, convenience and unparalleled service.
Southwest Florida Historical Society 939-4044, 10091 McGregor Blvd. FM 33919
Fort Myers Historical Museum 332-5955