Future of Lake Tahoe Airport being solidified


By Kathryn Reed

Keep the airfield as it is while providing flexibility for other uses at the airport was the consensus Monday night of the nearly 60 people who attended a meeting about the Lake Tahoe Airport master plan.

This was the third and final meeting before preferred alternatives are defined. Those will then be studied in environmental documents. Comments on all alternatives will be solicited for another month.

It’s possible the whole process could be completed in summer 2016.

It has been about 23 years since the city did a master plan for the airport. The goal is to define what it will look like for the next 20 years.

Last year the City Council said the airport will be a general aviation facility and commercial air service will be a thing of the past. However, it’s possible those priorities could change in the future. And the City Council at its last meeting approved an economic study be done for the airport. This will be incorporated into the business plan for the facility.

Lake Tahoe Airport's future is being decided by  the public and South Lake Tahoe officials. Photo/LTN file

Lake Tahoe Airport’s future is being decided by the public and South Lake Tahoe officials. Photo/LTN file

Michael Hotaling, the consultant preparing the master plan, on March 16 said the FAA – which is picking up 90 percent of the costs to prepare the plan – focuses on safety, security, sustainability and capacity. The city may have other priorities, but the feds’ desires by virtue of being the banker, so to speak, carry more weight.

With this being Lake Tahoe, environmental factors also play a role. So, while it might be a good idea to cut down trees for safety reasons, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency gets to weigh in if they should be removed or some other mitigation done.

Air quality, compatible land use and stream environmental zones are potential constraints for any future development at the airport.

Some of the 14 people who spoke Monday night brought up:

• How the airport has virtually no services; that it requires flying somewhere else to get the bugs off the plane because they cannot be washed at this airport.

• The need to lower the rent on hangars.

• The desire for new instrument approaches.

• The idea to create an airport district like what Truckee has.

• The savings of giving up the FAA certificate that allows commercial service. (The 139 certificate is on today’s City Council agenda.)

The city’s subsidy to operate the airport has dropped 43 percent from 2010-11 to 2013-14, with the cost at $352,000. That could drop about another $120,000 by giving up the 139 certificate. Most of the certificate’s expenses are related to training firefighters to deal with a commercial airliner crash.

At this week’s meeting everyone had the opportunity to vote on the plans they liked best. Most want to keep the runway, tarmac and apron as they are.

Hotaling brought up reasons the city might want to consider lengthening or widening the runway – mostly to keep up with changing airplanes and specifications. But it was also noted that even though the Gulfstream V and planes like it are likely to be more common in coming years, pilots could land and take off at their own discretion.

The current 8,541-foot runway is not optimal for a Gulfstream in the heat of summer. Optimal conditions are for an 11,000-foot runway.

But no one has come forward advocating to lengthen the runway, nor do they want to shorten it.

Based on the alternatives being voted on Monday people are behind improving other amenities like adding a self-fueling station – which could lower the price per gallon of jet fuel, creating hangars to accommodate larger aircraft, and designating a swath of land east of the airport as non-aeronautical (this would allow for a potential concert venue).

More information about the master plan may be found online.

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    Comments (12)
    1. Toxic Warrior says - Posted: March 17, 2015

      I think the master plan needs to look beyond focusing on safety, security, sustainability and capacity.
      It needs to hear the people around the airport for their concerns with any future commercial air service, the noise pollution it creates, and the danger it poses to their residences.

    2. dumbfounded says - Posted: March 17, 2015

      We have an Airport Manager that is conspicuously absent from every and all articles about the airport. The subsidy cost, absent the alleged training, is almost entirely salary and benefits. Something is completely off about needing $ 120,000 a year to train for an airplane crash. Why do we consistently pay top dollar for “managers” that don’t appear to manage anything? There is always plenty of money for consultants, but there is never any money for actual accomplishment. At several times over the years, the airport has had an active and cohesive community. Not so now.

      As regards trees, I cannot imagine any decision that compromises safety in the name of “lake clarity”, which is TRPA’s purpose. Tree height has absolutely zero effect on lake clarity but it has a profound effect on airplanes at an airport. I find it incredible that the issue is still being delayed.

      KTVL already has numerous instrument approaches, including a VOR, GPS and Localizer approaches. The FAA attempted to install an ILS for years but was unable to get it to work correctly due to the mountains affecting the glideslope signal. The unique environment and geography makes it extremely difficult to
      conform to TERPS. The main issue is the lack of radar coverage below 10,000′. Additional approaches will do nothing to solve this issue.

      The wash rack issue can be solved by filtration and is a non-issue easily solved with minimal cost. We had an opportunity for self-service aircraft fueling and lost it due to dithering.

      The idea that we have to have an airport that can handle the balanced field requirements of a G-V, or similar aircraft at maximum gross take off weight is excessive to say the least. How about fixing some potholes before we worry about having the same capacity airport as Reno or Sacramento?

    3. Dontfly says - Posted: March 17, 2015

      Get those air and noise polluting machines out of here.

    4. MIck says - Posted: March 17, 2015

      waste of land for 30 years…turn it into a soccer / softball mecca.

    5. nature bats last says - Posted: March 17, 2015

      And how much money did the city spend for another study that says pretty much what every other study says.

    6. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: March 17, 2015

      Nature bats last, Yes another study and another consulting firm. It seems like it will never end my friend! Happy Shamrocks, OLS

    7. nature bats last says - Posted: March 17, 2015

      OLS. You know the old saying about insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That seems to be the story of our city and the airport. As long as ive been here every study that they have done says the same thing. The only thing that has changed is the date and the cost of the paperwork. It truly is insanity. I guess it is job security for the consulting firm. LOL. May the luck of the Irish be with you….

    8. Slapshot says - Posted: March 17, 2015

      How soon we forget the role the airport played in th Angora fire.i I will take the airport any day just for its role in emergency related issues let alone the economic benefits.

    9. reloman says - Posted: March 17, 2015

      nature this study was required by the FAA and most of the money to pay for it came from the FAA.
      We cant get rid of the airport unless we want to fire half the city employees including the police and firemen to repay the FAA for the improvements they paid for at the airport.

    10. Slapshot says - Posted: March 17, 2015

      The airport will never be shut down. The FAA is not in the business of shutting airports and certainly not airports they have invested tens of millions of dollars in. It’s best to move forward and make it more effective. The subsidy has been greatly reduced it much less then the city subsidizes the recreation center.

    11. nature bats last says - Posted: March 18, 2015

      I have never said the airport wasnt valuable or has purpose. I believe it is a valuable resource for use for firefighters and safety(cal star). The obvious thing is the lack of viability for commercial use. Since the 70’s there have been many attempts to make it a commercial destination but IT NEVER WORKS otherwise it would be here now. The airline industry is not into throwing money at a failure. Personally im glad there isnt commercial size airplanes flying in and out of our basin. The value for emergency use is undeniable. I also believe the private airplane use will continue and is a big convenience for those that can afford it but they need to pay for this convenience, not the local taxpayer. All those celebrities and big bucks folks need to be the ones who contribute to their “little private airport” . IMHO

    12. Isee says - Posted: March 20, 2015

      Speaking of airplanes. Did anyone else experience the four C-130’s that almost landed on the houses in the Upper Lake Valley, yesterday? We figured it was military boys and girls having fun with giant planes, but it was a shocker!!