Airport decisions receive last public forum
The public received a final briefing on the Lake Tahoe Airport’s master plan Tuesday night as city staff and consultants hosted the final outreach meeting.
Michael Hotaling, senior vice president for C&S Companies, highlighted possible changes and options for the airport’s future.
The airport master plan, which began in February 2014, gained traction with a number of public hearings followed by a planning process by city staff. The city contracted with C&S Companies to conduct the study for $350,000. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) paid for 90 percent of the plan.
The last commercial flight departed Lake Tahoe Airport in 2000.
Since then it has served mostly general aviation and chartered flights.
Hotaling said the purpose of a new master plan includes updating standards the FAA current has in place. This includes safety and sustainability, security and ability to meet growing demand.
The master plan outlines short, medium and long-term predictions for aviation demands and would be in place for 20 years. The city council will select a final option, but the FAA has final say in the plan’s approval.
The overall process could take several months.
The planning process has generated a number of alternatives and options for both the airfield and the landside operations.
Hotaling warned that the final plan would likely be a hybrid of different options.
Among the most popular decisions from the last outreach program included maintaining the current infrastructure, meet the airport’s current aircraft designation with flexibility or shorten operations at the airport.
Hotaling said his company’s technical analysis supported a combination of continued maintenance and ensuring flexibility for services.
With the landside of things, the public in earlier meetings was split between focusing on growth to accommodate revenue generation, maintain flexibility for future growth or do nothing. Hoatling said the analysis supported maintaining flexibility for future growth first. Modest demand
Hotaling said the demand for airport services had a 1.7 percent projected growth over the next 20 years. The airport currently handles 24,000 flight operations a year, or 2.7 flights per hour. It could grow to 29,000 operations over time, or 3.1 flights per hour.
“That’s not a significant growth but still healthy and robust activity traffic,” Hotaling said.
He added that the chances of securing a commercial flight service remained very low without some significant subsidy to attract an airline.
“This does not mean service will never return to Lake Tahoe Airport, but that depends on the economy, the airline industry and whole lot of other possibilities,” Hotaling said.
He said the master plan preserves that option, but for the time being, would focus primarily on general aviation.
The city moved forward with that process in March when it sent a letter to the FAA to release its Part 139 certification, or what allows Lake Tahoe Airport to host commercial service.
Hotaling said this would save the airport significant money.
Hotaling said changes to the airfield geometry are based on the approach speed of different aircraft. Right now the airport typically handles medium-sized business jets, but could be supplemented by other categories.
“You can accommodate a significant variation of aircraft,” Hotaling said.
The airport already exceeds some FAA standards, such as having 290-foot buffer between the runway and the taxiway, or the path connecting to other airport facilities like ramps or terminals.
Another goal would be to make the airport more sustainable and rely less on the subsidy the city grants from its general fund. The amount has decreased over the years to $351,972 in the 2013/2014 fiscal year.
Hotaling said that while the June 30 forum was the final outreach meeting on the subject, the public still has opportunities to comment at council meetings and by email to the city. Even after the council makes the decision, the airport plan must undergo federal and state environmental assessments.
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