City will approve airport funding after FAA confirmation |

City will approve airport funding after FAA confirmation

by Michael Schneider

On next Tuesday’s city council agenda, there will be an item regarding a contract with private air traffic control services for the Lake Tahoe Airport with an “if” added to it.

The “if” pertains to a letter the Federal Aviation Administration was to send to the city regarding its funding of tower operations at the airport.

Airport Assistant Manager Janis Brand said the letter will pledge full federal funding of private air traffic control until April, then funding up to $114,000 of surface weather operations through February 1999.

The letter will also include, according to Brand, a proposal to review the cost/benefit analysis at the end of 1998 and possible reinstatement of fully funded air traffic control if the airport is at or near the cutoff for federal funding.

In the October 1997 cost/benefit analysis, the airport scored a .01, with a “1” being the lowest rating for which the FAA will fund a control tower.

The council approved $24,000, in concept but without motion, to allow the tower to stay open 12 hours a day. Tuesday’s agenda item will require a motion.

Although the $138,000 (the city’s $24,000 along with $114,000 in FAA funds for this year) is about $60,000 less than the airport has been funded in the past, Brand said the tower will be open just as much as it had been, although it will have three controllers and not four.

“There’s not as much overlapping,” Brand said of how the tower would function with one less controller. “But we’ll still overlap during the hours of heaviest traffic.”

The airport has been without commercial service for two years, forcing the cost/benefit numbers below the FAA minimum for federal funding.

The FAA had decided to stop funding two years ago, but with the prospects of Sierra Expressway and Boone Air, the city convinced the administration to switch funding from federal controllers to private.

This move saved the FAA $200,000 per year and will be in effect though March.

The city has decided to contribute funds to air traffic control staffing to keep the airport a viable candidate for commercial service.

The city hired a consultant, Vesta Rea & Associates, L.L.C., to market the airport to potential commercial service providers.

Vesta Rea-Gaubert, the firm’s president, said she will be back in Tahoe in April to report on her progress since beginning the quest for airlines for the airport in January.

Rea-Gaubert said she hopes to have commercial airlines at the airport within 10-12 months.

Tahoe Air Corporation, a basin-based start-up airline with a competent management team made up of airline industry veterans, also has irons in the fire. The corporation, with approximately $7 million in funds raised, hopes to offer flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to South Lake Tahoe by the summer.

Brand said that without an air traffic control tower, the airport would not likely be able to attract any commercial airlines which use jet engines.

FAA public affairs representatives were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

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