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Tahoe Air still optimistic

Jenifer Ragland

Financing for Tahoe Air is coming along slowly but surely, according to the founder of the local start-up airline.

Mark Sando, on-site project manager, spoke to the Soroptimist International of South Lake Tahoe Wednesday, telling members that the fledgling airline will work and asked for support.

“We’re local, and we have a great management team,” Sando said. “We’re pushing on the fund-raising effort. We don’t have that kind of money, but we have conviction to get it.”

The airline needs close to $1 million to get started, Sando said. Several investors have expressed interest in getting involved, but no solid deal has yet been made.

“It is difficult, but it is doable,” he said. “We’re working on it, and we’re getting some decent breaks. We’re not just blowing smoke.”

In reaching out to the community, Sando’s primary goal is to educate people about Lake Tahoe Airport and its potential. Many members of the community have not been supportive of the local airport, and misconceptions about previous efforts make any new ones all the more difficult, he said.

He said Tahoe Air still has time to secure investors before the scheduled start-up date – summer 1998 – is changed.

“We’re good on that date up until January and February,” Sando said. “If we’re still having problems then, that could be an issue. But when you’re trying to raise that kind of money, it takes time.”

Tahoe Air is planned to be a California-targeted, low-fare, passenger airline with South Lake Tahoe as its niche market. The company plans to initially serve the San Francisco International and the Los Angeles airports with six daily non-stop flights, Sando said.

Over the next two years, service will be expanded to Seattle, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Portland, with secondary airports like Oakland, San Jose, Burbank and Orange County also utilized.

Service will be provided on two 95-to-130-passenger jet aircraft.

Sando said fares will be within $10 to $15 one-way of comparable Reno Air fares, in order to capitalize on both the incoming tourist and the outgoing local markets.

“We are really looking at the Tahoe outbound market, which is one of the things that has never been developed in this area,” Sando said.

Aside from working on the financing aspect of the project, Sando said he has added two people to the Tahoe Air management team, which includes many long-time industry veterans.

Ellen Williams, a former Pacific Bell executive from the San Francisco Bay Area, will be chief information officer, and Tahoe local Gale Davis, former vice president of the United Parcel Service, will serve as vice president of human and material resources.


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