Lake Tahoe Airport keeps air traffic controllers |

Lake Tahoe Airport keeps air traffic controllers

The Lake Tahoe Airport was offered a deal Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration that will provide funding for air traffic controllers.

“This has been an ongoing quest for Congressman (John) Doolittle to get Tahoe into the Federal Contract Program,” said Legislative Director Peter Evich.

The FAA could be providing as much as $250,000 a year, but until a deal is hammered out, Doolittle, R-Calif., is pushing for the FAA to extend its current contract with the Lake Tahoe Airport to fund weather observers.

After the FAA announced its intention to cut funding for airport weather observers in favor of a computerized weather system, Allegiant, the only commercial airline flying into the Tahoe airport, began to get cancellations.

“This is what happens anytime an article creates doubt,” said Allegiant President Jim Patterson. “But the right things are happening to take that doubt away.”

This is not the first time the Lake Tahoe Airport has been in jeopardy of losing federal funding. City officials are hoping that this new deal will give stability to the airport tower which has had to constantly seek funding extensions, said Airport Manager Rick Jenkins.

“We’re tired of the drill every six months,” he said.

While the unique flying conditions at the Lake Tahoe Airport have been a driving force in negotiations with the FAA, concerns have been raised about the computerized weather system known as the Automated Surface Observing System. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., in a letter to FAA administrator Jane Garvey, expressed his doubt in the system’s ability to give accurate information that is especially critical in mountainous terrain.

“As a former commercial airline pilot, I am aware of the unreliable history of ASOS,” he stated.

City officials will meet with members of Congress and the FAA in the next several weeks to work out the details of the Contract Tower Program, said City Manager David Childs.

Whether the meeting will take place in Washington D.C. or at Lake Tahoe is unknown, but city officials are hopeful they will be able to demonstrate to the FAA firsthand the unique flying conditions that the Lake Tahoe Airport presents.

“I’m just pleased that we have the initiative and leadership to get this done,” said Mayor Tom Davis.

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