Pilots Flock to Arcadia Municipal for Taco Tuesday

Pilots Flock to Arcadia Municipal for Taco Tuesday
Victoria Soukup
Published in: 

When Shelley Peacock watches customers enjoying the food trucks parked at Arcadia Municipal Airport (X06), she knows one thing for certain: “If you build it, they will come.”

As airport director, Peacock has transformed the small South Florida airfield from a quiet place to land into a hot destination for general aviation pilots throughout the state and beyond.

How did she do it? Well, hosting food trucks every Tuesday has a lot to do with it. She also lowered fuel prices to be competitive with nearby airports and began offering pilots a courtesy car so they can drive into town for lunch or explore the antique district. And she promotes it all on Facebook at zero cost.

During the last several years, traffic has grown from a handful of daily operations to an average of 70. Moreover, the airport used to sell less than 500 gallons of fuel a month but now pumps more than 15,000.


Project: Increasing Traffic

Location: Arcadia (FL) Municipal Airport

Strategy: Lowering fuel costs, hosting food trucks & offering live music on Tuesdays; adding small piece of play equipment for children; providing courtesy car for pilots

Marketing Channel: Facebook

Results: Over last 4 years, traffic has grown from handful of daily operations to an average of 70; fuel sales have increased from less than 500 gallons/month to more than 15,000

On-Field Aircraft Maintenance: 
Wingman Aviation

“Pilots are always looking for someplace to go,” reasons Peacock. “They are always looking for an excuse to go somewhere in their plane. By having fly-ins, serving lunch or offering a cookout, and having low fuel prices, we’re that place.”

Given the recent success with general aviation pilots, talk is now brewing about infrastructure improvements to attract jet traffic.

Management Change

The uptick started about four years ago, when the city assumed responsibilities for day-to-day operation of the airport. Previously, the facility was run by a private company but overseen by Peacock in her previous job at City Hall.

The first thing Peacock did when she moved to the airport terminal building was lower fuel prices and increase the airport’s presence on Facebook. Next, she began thinking about ways to attract pilots, and Taco Tuesday began. “We decided if we brought in a taco truck and lowered the fuel prices by 10 cents a gallon on that day, it would bring in activity during the week,” she explains. “And boy has it!”

Peacock thought the lunch idea would attract pilots, but never dreamed it would be so popular. Most Tuesdays, more than 100 airplanes fly into the airport. “It seems like every general aviation pilot in Florida has been here on a Tuesday,” she remarks. “While we started it with only a taco truck, we now have a barbecue truck and a burrito truck and an ice cream smoothie vendor.”

Customers eat their treats at an area near the ramp with about 25 picnic tables and a large oak tree that offers shade from the hot Florida sun. “At 12 noon on Tuesday, this place is packed, and we generally have live music by a local guitarist who also sings,” says Peacock.

In addition, the taco truck operator donated a playground-style airplane for children to play on.

Facebook Figures Prominently

Posting fuel prices and announcing planned activities on Facebook has been instrumental to the airport’s growth. “On Taco Tuesdays, we fill up the ramp in no time and we have lines at the fuel pump—sometimes seven planes deep,” Peacock reports. “We even have planes parked all over the grassy areas.”

Despite an increase in fuel sales, the airport’s 12,000-gallon fuel tank offers sufficient storage for the time being. The airport is, however, considering bringing Jet-A fuel to the property and extending its 3,700-foot asphalt runway to attract larger aircraft.

Construction of a new ramp is already in process, funded by a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation. The current ramp is simply no longer large enough, Peacock notes.

Recent updates have included a new turf runway, which intersects its paved counterpart. The airport also completed a $1 million drainage improvement in 2019 to help it better handle Florida’s rainy season. “Every time it rained, the ground was saturated,” recalls Peacock. “[The airfield] had stayed closed for most of the summer when we experience heavy rains. The FDOT grant paid for the design and then construction to raise it up. Now, the runway has a good top and is solid.”

More Traffic Means More Business

An increase in traffic at the airport has boosted activity at Wingman Aviation, an independent aircraft maintenance shop on the field. “When we started in 2009, this place was pretty quiet,” recalls owner Kevin Daughtrey. “Ever since the city has taken over the airport, things have grown dramatically and improved.”

Wingman Aviation performs annual checklist inspections, 100-hour maintenance and restorations. “Most of the time, people come and drop their plane off and find another way home,” says Daughtrey. “Sometimes they wait on the small jobs. And for oil changes and things of that sort, the pilots might show up for an event and let us work on the plane while they are relaxing.”

Peacock says that improvements at the airport are also positively affecting businesses in nearby Arcadia. “The airport is the gateway to our community for all of these pilots,” she says. “When they go to town, they spend money.”

Pilots often schedule personal business such as doctor appointments around airport events, she adds.

Increased activity at the airport has even gained the attention of the region’s FAA air traffic controllers. “I’ve been told that when someone is flying from, say Daytona, the air traffic controllers will say, ‘Let me guess—it’s Taco Tuesday.’”

Word about the growing airport’s social scene is spreading outside Florida as well. “I had pilots come from Colorado to stop here because it was on their bucket list,” says Peacock.

Not surprisingly, years of increasing traffic have prompted infrastructure development. The airport is currently awaiting delivery of 10 additional hangars, which will bring its total to 34.

Overall, Peacock has received nothing but appreciation from customers. “All the pilots come in and tell us they wish other airports were like Arcadia,” she reports. “This had been such a sleepy airport, and now it’s alive and busy. And pumping fuel.

General Aviation

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