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Airport meeting addresses crashes, recent updates

Despite the pandemic, the Truckee Tahoe Airport has seen growth.
File photo

The pandemic has affected most every aspect of life. Aviation is no exception.

“The pandemic has been a one-of-a-kind event to hit aviation,” said Daren Griffin, president and CEO of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. “Commercial aviation was brought almost to a complete stop in 2020. We all had to pivot to a lot of things we weren’t used to focusing on in terms of masks and sanitation levels. But it’s what needed to be done to fight the virus. Along with that we had to cut costs quickly and deeply.”

However, despite the hit to aviation, the airport has seen growth.



Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Reno-Tahoe Airport has added two new airlines and 15 new destinations. One of the new airlines being introduced to the airport is Aha! — which stands for Air Hotel Adventure. The airline will launch Oct. 24, and fly to eight currently unserved destinations.

Additionally, the airport saw its highest passenger numbers since 2007 in July, and has seemingly bounced back from the pandemic in terms of high passenger rates. Griffin believes this growth is due to the touristy nature of the area, the airport’s proximity to Lake Tahoe and nearby gaming activities.



Griffin said he hopes to spend $1 billion with help from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which would go toward improvements to rebuild concourses, as well as expanding and modernizing the airport’s ticketing hall, public parking, and rental car center.

Despite this growth, there are still many challenges that the airport faces regarding COVID-19 — low parking, labor shortages, national fuel shortages, and low visibility due to fire which have caused around 155 flights to be canceled.

“The smoke was just so thick that you couldn’t land or take off – which tells you how bad it is because aircrafts are used to operating in rainy, snowy conditions,” Griffin said.

“We are almost out of parking every weekend,” he added. “We’re messaging people to get a ride to the airport because people have not gone back to Uber or Lyft as they were pre-pandemic… it’s a possible health function… it’s putting a lot of pressure on infrastructure.”

FINANCES

Griffin delivered his comments at a Tuesday meeting where he and Kevin Smith, general manager of the Truckee-Tahoe Airport District, delivered updates.

The Truckee Tahoe Airport District lies in the eastern part of Placer and Nevada counties and stretches 485 square miles. The district contains a population of approximately 37,000 people.

“We are a general aviation airport,” said Smith. “We don’t have any scheduled commercial service, but we do have commercial flights come and go from the airport. These are charter operated, and fractional — where people buy a membership on an aircraft, as well as a lot of small private owners … We have about 150 aircraft that are based at the airport… and 234 hangars.”

The airport runs on cycles where the busiest season is in the summer and flights decrease in the fall and spring.

Smith discussed the district budget for 2022, which is subject to change. Around half of the revenue is projected to be around $8.2 million, which would come from from fuel sales, lease property, hangar rent, leasing warehouse space, and aircraft services. Smith expects that the other half will be $7.2 million from property taxes, as well as $410,500 from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Smith believes that the expenses will be around $15 million for the airport. Capital projects will cost around $2 million. Airport reserve funds are around $5.5 million.

CRASHES

The Truckee airport had two crashes this year about a month apart.

On June 15 a Cirrus SR20 crashed, killing one person and injuring another. This happened nearby the Lahontan neighborhood, south of the airport, during the aircraft’s take off. It’s being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Nearly a month later on July 26 a Challenger 605 Business Jet crashed upon its arrival, killing six people on board with no survivors. The crash was in a Martis Valley neighborhood near the Ponderosa Golf Course. This crash is also still being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Smith said that the recent aircraft crashes have prompted the National Business Aviation Association, FAA, and the NTSB to take a closer look at ways to prevent crashes in the future.

NOISE

The Truckee Tahoe Airport has a curfew of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. to prevent noise. In 2020 there were 855 noise complaints from 192 households, which has continued to grow annually.

“We want those people to call us and we want to interact with them. We encourage them to tell us what they’re experiencing so that we can work on improvements to our system,” said Smith.

In 2022, as part of the Airport Master Plan, the airport district is considering construction of a third runway option, which officials believe may reduce noise and enhance safety.

COMMUNITY TEAM

The Airport Community Team with be a monthly public forum hosted by Smith to discuss any items of public interest, as well as issues concerning the Truckee Tahoe Airport District. Meetings will be held the second Wednesday of every month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The topics will include the agency partnership community sponsorship program for November, and the airport district’s budget for December. Public comment from these meetings will then be conveyed to the Airport District’s Board of Directors at its monthly meeting. Those who are interested in attending can sign up at truckeetahoeairport.com/administration/act.

Elizabeth White is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at ewhite@sierrasun.com


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