Thermal Airport Takes Off

Thermal Airport Takes Off — The Desert Sun, CA — January 26th, 2004

THERMAL — John Obradovichhas been waiting for a hangar to open up at the Bermuda Dunes Airport for more than three years. He wants to protect his Piper Lance, a single engine six-seater airplane, from the effects of the hot desert sun.

His wait will soon be over. He?s decided to build 29 hangars at the Desert Resorts Regional Airport in Thermal. Come late February, he will be able to house his plane in his own hangar.

“We?ve already pre-leased or sold 10 of them, so that?s encouraging,” said Obradovich, who?s calling his regional airport business All Inside AV Storage.

The new hangars are a result of more than $3.5 million in infrastructure improvements intended to attract more businesses, said Robert Field,the aviation division supervisor with the Economic Development Agency of Riverside County which owns the airport.

In addition to the water, sewer and road improvements, the airport has undergone about $16 million in other improvements including the completion of an aircraft parking apron to make it easier for big planes to park, and the lengthening of the runway from 5,000 to 6,700 feet, and then again to 8,500 feet. The improvements, Field said, not only have attracted new businesses like Obradovich?s to the airport, but will encourage economic investment in the Coachella Valley.

“Having an amenity like this will encourage people to come out here. You?re actually starting to see companies relocate out here,” he said. “We think part of the reason is the availability of a facility like his — the availability of an airport where you can fly in and out (with less restrictions than commercial airports). It?s a pretty big deal.”

Field said most of the airport?s traffic — about 70 percent– is from executive jets. Chief executive officers who fly in to do business or visit a second home in the valley make up most of the airport?s traffic.

With the extension of the runway and weight capacityto 171,000 pounds, Field said the airport will be able to accommodate larger executive jets, such as Boeing 737s, more often. Hot, dense air (thin air. Ed.) makes it harder for planes to get lift, so before the runway was extended the airport could only accommodate them when it was cool. “Now we can accommodate them pretty close to year-round,” Field said. He said the creation of the new hangars should also encourage more permanent traffic since people will now have a place to house their planes.

Obradovich said long-term plans call for 95 hangars at the airport. With the east valley growth and spike in aviation over the years, he thinks people will utilize the hangars. “It?s amazing how many young people are learning to fly. Average people, not (just) rich people,” Obradovich said.

To show off all the recent improvements and the amenities offered, the airport is planning an air show on Nov. 5 and 6 that will include air acts, aerobatics and static displays. “It?s going to be a pretty big show,” Field said.

“A lot of people don?t know there?s an airport there. So we want to get as many people (as we can) from the public out there.”