Hurricane Ian swept through southwestern Florida more than a week ago, but hangar tenants at Venice Airport are still being denied access to their aircraft and hangars. In a letter to airport management, the airport’s tenant association complained that the city is giving higher priority to the city’s insurer than to tenants and users.
“We also appreciate the challenges facing airport staff. Nevertheless, the actions denying total access to the T-Hangar area is, in our opinion, an overreaction that protects the interest of the insurance company without regard to the interest of the tenants,” said Dave Wimberly, president of the Venice Airport Society Inc., the airport’s user association. “Some undamaged airplanes are in damaged hangars and owners should be allowed to remove those aircraft before further problems occur. Pathways in and out would need to be cleared. These tenants may wish to remove their aircraft from this area to a completely different area where they have hangar access. Some airplanes are only slightly damaged and special care must be taken to ensure those aircraft are not further damaged,” Wimberly added.
Hurricane Ian struck Venice on Sept. 28, causing widespread damage in the region, including hangar structures at Venice. Venice has 14 hangar bays. An aerial photo taken a day after the storm revealed that one was nearly destroyed and as many as seven others may have lost doors or had other damage. The airport said the structural integrity of some of the hangars was unknown, but initially it offered to drive owners past their hangars for an exterior inspection, but wouldn’t allow owners to exit the vehicles. Several of the hangars are built to newer code standards and appear intact. Those owners are also locked out.
On Friday afternoon, airport director Mark Cervasio said the city’s insurer had a team assessing hangar stability with an emphasis on which hangars are safe to open and use. The airport has also agreed to let owner insurance adjustors inspect damaged aircraft to speed claims filing. He said owners could accompany the adjustors. If hangars aren’t safe to enter, the city’s insurance agents will collect and inventory contents and place them in secure containers for owners to claim.
T-hangars at nearby Punta Gorda were also off-limits for a time because of lack of power. The airport has since reopened access to tenants and airline service has resumed. The T-hangar complex as Punta Gorda was rebuilt after hurricane Charley in 2004. They suffered only minor damage. However, some larger commercial hangars were seriously damaged by winds that were reported to peak at 155 MPH.