Friday, October 30, 2020

The Supersonic Resolution


“The secret to getting ahead is getting started,” is a quote from an unknown author, but for this time of year, New Year’s resolutions and reflections on the past are always the forefronts in imagination. Vison, timing, and imagination is something that never seems to be lacking on Marco Island, however.

When Frank Mackle and his brothers were the principals of the Deltona cooperation and decided to purchase the 24 square miles of mangroves, former pineapple plantations and sandy hammocks that is Marco Island today; it was not a purchase made on a whim. Many believe the decision and vison for Marco were largely dependent upon information that the Dade County Port Authority was planning something out of this world and this futuristic and ambitious endeavor was to begin massive construction only 48 miles from Marco Island.

The 1960s were an exciting yet terrifying time. Soviet Russia was shipping nuclear weapons to Fidel Castro in Cuba along with rockets that could deliver devastation in minutes to most major cities in America. The first building on Marco beach was a bunker–style missile tracking station to monitor possible rocket launches from Cuba and our own fledgling space program that was launching America’s satellites and astronauts into outer space.

When the age of supersonic flight finally dawned, the invisible wall that many thought to exist was exploding with sonic booms, and the racing technology that was rapidly moving forward after the Second World War, the great minds of aviation began to consider the best location for the most modern, supersonic, and largest airport in the world.

Even as early as the 1950s, aeronautical engineers understood that aircrafts breaking the sound barrier above populated areas was a consequence of modern aircraft that would not be acceptable, but even though granny’s antique crystal and fine china were at risk from powerful sonic booms, supersonic air travel was an upcoming reality. Because South Florida has open water on either side, the southern peninsula of the Sunshine State was in a perfect geological position to be the first supersonic airliner hub.

During the later months of 1968, aviation was taking off and big plans were in the works for the Big Cypress Swamp. About 48 miles east of Marco Island, the Dade County Port Authority was acquiring about 40 square miles of land just to the north of the Everglades National Park. The land was to be for the largest airport ever constructed and the first lengthy runway was nearing completion in December of 1969. The plans for the Big Cypress Jetport were ambitious as the new aviation complex was to be five times larger than the JFK airport in New York and several times larger than any airport existing.

The entire concept and community of the Mackle brother’s Marco Island was finding fuel by optimistic speculation about a nearby supersonic Jetport planned for the future.

In the 1969 winter edition of The Marco Islander, Robert F Mackle: Secretary–Treasurer of the Deltona Corporation, offered the following comments in his “Executive Corner” column. “Already under construction, the Jet Port could well make this community the nucleus of one of the most thriving areas in the country.”

An advertisement for Pan American airlines, of the same edition, had this to say, “The future development of Marco Island received a tremendous boost recently with the start of construction of a mammoth jetport, the biggest ever anywhere just 48 miles away.”

The Jetport plans included a futuristic high-speed, elevated monorail traveling above the everglades between the Jetport and the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

Shortly after the first Jetport runway was operational, airline executives began to reconsider the drawing board plans of the aviation engineers. The supersonic airliners of the future were not going to be immediately cost-effective, and American air carriers decided to ground the supersonic plans until a later date. Even though the Big Cypress Jetport was placed in a permanent holding pattern, the first supersonic runway was still a training ground for several airlines and cargo carriers to ensure that large airliner pilots were properly trained for takeoffs and landings.

With the planned Big Cypress Jetport only 48 miles away, could the modern Marco we know today be a byproduct of ambitious aviation endeavors and the supersonic age? Could Marco have been a planned bedroom community for supersonic pilots and flight attendants and all the supporting staff to operate the most advanced airport in the world?

There can be little doubt there were many New Year resolutions in the 1960s for the birth, fostering and ultimate growth of modern Marco Island. January 31st, 1965 was the grand opening of modern Marco Island and though the Mackle brothers were hoping to have 5,000 visitors, many more eager explorers crossed over the original rickety Goodland Bridge to discover our brand of fledgling paradise.

The New Year always beckons for new ideas and new promises for the future. With the end of 2019 ready to make a landing, why not set our goals and resolutions for 2020 high. After all, with new Boeing Starliner launching our astronauts back into space, the sky, the moon, and even Mars, might not be the limit. Happy New Year!

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