The History of JKA
Gulf Shores International Airport (JKA), originally named Canal Field, became operational in 1942 and was first used as an outlying field (OLF) for the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. The primary purpose of the airfield at that time was training of Naval Aviators. Due to transitions in training exercises, the airfield began to see a decrease in military operations and the facility was transferred to the State of Alabama in 1977. After the purchase, the name of the Airport was changed to Jack Edwards Airport in honor of Congressman Jack Edwards, who was instrumental in transferring the property from the federal government to the State of Alabama.
In 1983, the Airport was purchased by the City of Gulf Shores and has since become a valuable asset in the growth and economic development and surrounding communities. In 1988, the City of Gulf Shores established the City of Gulf Shores Airport Authority to operate and manage the airport. A new general aviation terminal building was constructed in 1998 to accommodate passengers and serve as the Airport’s welcome center for travelers. In 2003, Runway 9/27 was extended to 6,962 feet and an Instrument Landing System (I.L.S.) with an Approach Lighting System (MALSR) was constructed. These improvements led to the use of the airport in all weather conditions and allowed it to accommodate up to 99% of the nation’s aircraft fleet, becoming a National airport designation.
Because of the number of annual air operations (takeoffs and landings), JKA is the second busiest airport in the state of Alabama. The need for an air traffic control has long been recognized and applications for a control tower begin in earnest after concluding a land sale agreement with the City to provide the Authority with the needed funds to match FAA grants in 2014. The land sale provided the Authority with needed funds and the city with a site which now houses the freestanding emergency center and medical village. Congressional funding of the FAA tower program was put on hold for a number of years and the application was unable to be acted upon. Included in the 2020 FAA reauthorization five year program championed by Senator Richard Shelby, the FAA was mandated to reinstitute a new tower process and add as many as three new control towers per year. By pre engineering the tower and agreeing to be the subject airport to create a new FAA review process, Jack Edwards National jumped the line and in addition to being the first new FAA funded airport, also set the record for fastest commissioning from start to finish of any tower under the program. The tower was commissioned on November 17, 2021.
As the Airport Authority began to envision the future, it was apparent that JKA was growing up and project to re-brand the airport was undertaken. On October 25, 2021 the Airport Authority voted to rename Jack Edwards National Airport to Gulf Shores International Airport – Jack Edwards Field and launched the new name on November 10, 2021.
As Gulf Shores International Airport continues to grow, continual planning and development will give it the ability to be a competitive transportation hub for the Cities of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and South Baldwin County as a key element to attract more visitors and industry to the Alabama Gulf Coast.
The majority of travelers visiting the Airport consist of those traveling for business, second homes, or recreational purposes. The continuing growth of development in the region, complemented by the natural attractions available in coastal areas, makes it attractive for real estate, retail and resort development. The area is also attractive to seekers of recreational activities such as sport fishing, golfing, shopping, or simply relaxing.
Characteristics of JKA
Gulf Shores International Airport is located approximately 2 miles north of the central business district of Gulf Shores, Alabama. The airport is situated on 838 acres of land bordered to the north by Cotton Creek Drive, to the west by Alabama Highway 59, and to the south by Waterway East. Alabama Department of Transportation is in the development phase of a new expressway spur off the beach express to serve and border the east boundary of the airport. This includes a new intercostal bridge, which will serve the new airline terminal.
The Airport is currently served by two paved runways designated 9/27 and 17/35. Runway 9/27, the primary runway, is 6,962’ x 100’ with a 462 displaced threshold to Runway 9. Runway 17/35, the crosswind or secondary runway, is 3,596’ x 75’ with a 320 displaced threshold to Runway 35.
Gulf Shores International Airport with over 90,000 annual operations is ranked the second busiest airport in the State of Alabama.
JKA maintains daily a total of 2,729,956’ of asphalt which is equal to 43.1 miles of 12’ roadway, over 36,109 feet of fencing equal to 6.84 miles, and over 537 lights on the airport with over 52 airfield signs.
Gulf Shores International Airport board members set the policies and procedures by which the airport is operated. Those selected for the board are some of the area’s most prominent business and civic leaders. They bring the knowledge, experience, and expertise needed to ensure that JKA remains a first-class facility. Board meetings occur the fourth Monday of each month at 1:30 in the conference room at the Airport Authority office.
Business Owner & Commercial Pilot
Olmstead and Olmstead, LLC
President/CEO Alabama Gulf Coast
Convention & Visitors Bureau
President and Founder of Caduceus Consulting
Gulf Shores City Council Member
Principal, Cardinal Ventures, Inc.
Orange Beach City Council Member
Gulf Shores City Council Member
Airport Authority Staff