Touch down for South Shore’s hometown airline |

Touch down for South Shore’s hometown airline

Passengers of the inaugural flight of Tahoe Air on Friday evening cheered as a Boeing 737 jet landed at the Lake Tahoe Airport. An even louder chorus of cheers greeted the passengers from the airport terminal balcony.

The first official flight from Los Angeles Airport to South Lake Tahoe had 108 passengers in the 110-seat jet. A few paying customers returned from LAX with the mostly VIP passengers on the round-trip flight that began Friday morning at Lake Tahoe. Caesar, Cleopatra and two attendants from Caesars Tahoe also participated in the daylong jaunt.

During the stopover at LAX, passengers enjoyed a lunch reception and the presence of Bob Eubanks, host of television’s The Newlywed Game, who joined the entourage on the return flight. A few speeches were also on the menu.

“A couple years ago, Mark Sando came to me and told me he wanted to start an airline in South Lake Tahoe,” Tahoe Air President Bruce Wetsel told passengers and passersby during the LAX reception. “I said, ‘you’re crazy.’ It was his persistence that convinced me.

“Now there’s no reason to fly up to Reno and drive to Tahoe anymore.”

The Tahoe Air party returned to the Lake Tahoe Airport, and another reception, in a manner in keeping with the new airline’s name. It landed on Tahoe Time, about 10 minutes late.

That was an improvement over its morning departure from Lake Tahoe. Thanks to a fuel gauge that required a manual check and the mysterious switching of a set of airport keys with someone’s personal set, the Tahoe Air flight took off an hour late.

“Every inaugural has to have some kinks in it,” Sando, Tahoe Air’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, told the passengers during the wait.

The most obvious kink visible to both passengers and audience was the absence of the Tahoe Air decals on the plane, which had not arrived in time to apply for the flight. The only designation was Casino Express of Elko, Nev., operated by T.E.M., Inc., owners of the airline. However, by Wednesday’s inaugural flight to San Jose, the airplane should be fully decked out in its Tahoe Air colors.

Oh, the mystery of the disappearing keys was also solved. A Reno cameraman, who did not go on the inaugural flight, grabbed the wrong keys after passing through the security gate. He didn’t get very far, since his car keys were on the ring he left behind.

All’s well that ends well.

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