Rea-Gaubert will report on airport progress |

Rea-Gaubert will report on airport progress

Michael Schneider

Representatives of Vesta Rea & Associates will return from Houston Tuesday to present a plan to attract commercial passenger service to the Lake Tahoe Airport.

The presentation will be made to the South Lake Tahoe City Council.

Ami Obourn, associate with Vesta Rea, said the firm, and some airlines they have contacted, are optimistic about the future of commercial service in Tahoe.

Vesta Rea-Gaubert, along with Obourn, will present an airline marketing plan, an update to the old plan and a public relations plan for the airport to the City Council and Airport Commission.

“The city and the airport will review the documents and decide if they’re thorough and accurate,” Obourn said. “Then we’ll start meeting with airlines.”

The agenda item calls for council approval of the expenditure of about $1,000 of Airport Enterprise Fund money for each airline presentation, according to Kerry Miller, city manager.

“Upon approval of the plan, a marketing committee composed of councilmembers, community representatives and city staff will visit two or three targeted airlines,” Miller said.

Vesta Rea & Associates was hired in January to return commercial passenger service to the airport.

The Lake Tahoe Airport thrived for two decades as about 700,000 commercial passengers passed through its gates.

In 1996, the last year the airport had a commercial service provider, only 725 commercial passengers flew into the Lake Tahoe Airport.

This decrease in activity brought the airport to a lowest possible rating in an October 1997 cost/benefit analysis completed by the Federal Aviation Administration. The score was the lowest an airport can have and retain federal funding for its air traffic control tower.

The FAA told the airport it would lose its air traffic control tower funding a month ago, a move that Janis Brand, airport assistant manager, said would kill the push for scheduled commercial jet service, as well as make the trip to Tahoe more dangerous for small airplanes.

Several U.S. senators and federal representatives came to the rescue and lobbied to keep the funding, citing safety and potential commercial service as reasons.

Although the city has not received written confirmation from the FAA, Brand and Miller said they have verbal assurances from the agencies representatives that tower funding will continue, with a $24,000 subsidy from the city, through February 1999.

Rea-Gaubert said, if her efforts are successful, a commercial service provider will be in place by the end of this year.

FAA representatives previously said if the airport’s rating improved, the administration could review and possibly reinstate airport funding.

Although the airport will receive more than $100,000 from the FAA through February 1999, that is about half the sum of previous years.

During the airport’s more profitable years, it was staffed with government air traffic controllers.

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