All in all, the Marco Island Executive Airport fared well during Hurricane Irma. The airport was up and running two days after the storm, with just some water leakage inside the terminal building and two or three hangar doors damaged in the south side hangars.
At the Civil Air Patrol hangar and headquarters at the airport’s northern edge, though, it was a different story. While the office portion of the building was left basically untouched, the attached 60 by 70-ft. CAP hangar was smashed as if by a giant fist.
“It had to be a micro burst or a tornado, very very focused,” said CAP Major Robert Corriveau, commander of Marco Island’s Senior Squadron 376. “It’s like a giant wind hand grabbed the hangar and pushed it back. The hangar is totally destroyed. But you walk into the squadron room, and you wouldn’t know anything was different.” Even the covered walkways right next to the hangar escaped undamaged.
The front face of the hangar, though, facing east into the strongest winds of Irma’s eye wall, was torn from its framework of steel girders and shoved to the back of the space, remaining in one piece and not losing its shape. The roof and side walls of the hangar were shredded, with the frame crumpled up like steel spaghetti and the aluminum panels scattered all over the ground.
“From the air, you can see white aluminum panels all around the building,” said Corriveau. “It must have happened very quickly.”
Fortunately, the squadron’s brand new Cessna 182 airplane, with upgraded electronics and the G-1000 computerized cockpit, was away in Daytona for maintenance, although it would have been routinely flown away out of harm’s way in any event. Two vehicles that were stowed inside the hangar “for safety” were not so lucky, and remained inside the crumpled wreckage. Cars that sat just outside in the airport parking lot during Irma were fine afterward, said Corriveau.
One of the squadron’s pilots, Bill Rogers, has offered to store the squadron’s airplane in his hangar space, and put his own plane outside in the open “tie-down” section, so the squadron will be able to continue operations without their hangar.
“Three of our members have CAP radios, although their antennas are down from the storm,” said Corriveau. They hope to have their plane back within a week, and radio towers the following week, to be up and running with communications soon after.
The Naples CAP squadron headquarters also sustained damage. The Marco Island Coast Guard Auxiliary has offered to share their headquarters building by Caxambas Pass so CAP can continue to hold meetings.
“I want to thank the Auxiliary and Commander Doug Bartlett,” said Corriveau. Even before operations resume, Corriveau and the CAP are working to get estimates on dealing with the damage, and assessing their best course of action.
The demolition work will be extensive, before they can build a new hangar, once they have the funds to do it.
“We have insurance, but not enough,” said Corriveau. “We’re not covered for catastrophic events like this.” Although the Civil Air Patrol is an arm of the Air Force, a civilian component of the U.S. military, government funds will not cover the necessary work. “It’s our responsibility. The entire coastal patrol is funded by donations. It’s not funded by the Air Force.”
Corriveau said he hopes the Marco Island community will step up as they did 14 years ago to build the hangar facility through a capital campaign. The CAP’s primary missions include aerial search and rescue, ensuring the safety of local boaters, reconnaissance, disaster relief and civil defense, coordinating with law enforcement agencies and emergency responders.
“We’ve been here since 1981,” said Corriveau. “We expect to be here for many more years to come.”