Dikun: Airport needs to stay | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Dikun: Airport needs to stay

Kathryn Reed, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Passion is one thing Mike Dikun is not lacking.

If he ever gives up his job as manager of Lake Tahoe Airport, he could go into public relations or marketing. In a talk before the 24 members of Leadership Lake Tahoe this month he was a one-man cheerleading squad for promoting the airport and expanding its services.

“Commercial aviation remains my goal and objective. It is essential to the economy and environment,” Dikun said. “This airport has the ability to solve a lot of problems.”

He admits there will be tradeoffs in resuming commercial service. Returning to the heydays of the past where tens of thousands of aircraft came and went from South Lake Tahoe each year is not his dream.

“We need to develop commercial service at a walking pace before we start running,” Dikun said.

He believes a half dozen flights of 50-70 seater commercial aircraft is the answer.

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What he would like to see is a study done on whether it is better environmentally to transport people to the South Shore via automobile or plane. The airport could be a gateway to the basin, with the potential of fewer vehicles on the roads if public transit were coordinated effectively.

He admits it is going to be a joint effort between entities that don’t necessarily have a history of playing nice together.

Current mandates by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency prohibit most commercial planes from landing here because they would violate noise restrictions, Dikun said.

However, some adhere to the threshold requirements. AmeriFlight, a contractor for UPS, has one flight a day into the airport. Calstar takes people to regional hospitals about once a day, according to Dikun. A jet belonging to Harrah’s sat on the runway during his talk.

It is the cooperation with the Stateline casinos that the airport will also need to be a viable enterprise. There is no denying many who come here are gamblers or hotel guests of the gaming establishments.

Dikun plans to keep luring people to the airport with the annual summer air festival. At a City Council meeting this month, staff was given the go-ahead to plan for a visitors center at the airport.

There are the naysayers who are opposed to expanding the airport and others who would like to tear up the runways. The truth is the city would be in a financial mess if the latter were to occur.

In 1959 the county built the airport. In 1983 it was sold to the city. The deed says if the city stops operating the site as an airport, it goes back to the county.

South Lake Tahoe has received grants in excess of $15 million to run the airport. It has to give the money back if the airport goes away.

“It can only be an airport. It would return to a meadow,” Dikun said of the outcome of shutting down the operation. “If it goes away, Tahoe will never see an airport again.”

Kathryn Reed may be reached at kreed@tahoedailytribune.com or (530) 541-3880, ext. 251.