Castle Airport – New Passenger Terminal Planned

New terminal is arriving at Castle Airport this summer

ATWATER — A new passenger terminal will be up and running at Castle Airport by June, officials said Tuesday. But whether Castle can attract a passenger airline to use the terminal remains up in the air. The Merced County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to spend $775,000 on the small, two-gate modular terminal building. A Baltimore-based company, Williams Scotsman Inc., will design the movable terminal, build it off-site and then install it. That process should take less than five months, said John Fowler, the county’s economic development director. A state grant the county won in 2006 will pay for the project. “This is an important step for Castle,” county spokeswoman Katie Albertson said. The terminal will be placed a few hundred yards north of Castle’s air traffic control tower. The 5,000-square-foot building will include two boarding gates, space for security screeners, waiting and baggage areas, and room for up to two airlines, Fowler said.

He said the county chose a modular building over on-site construction because it’s cheaper, faster and can be expanded easily to accommodate growth.

Merced County took over Castle in 1995

The county long has pointed to Castle as a vital part of its economic future. The decommissioned Air Force base was handed to Merced County after the military’s departure in 1995.

County officials have been working to redevelop the base as a business center and airport, and passenger flights are an important part of that plan. But for now, county officials are relying on the “if you build it, they will come” method. They have not contracted with a passenger carrier.

Castle serves several cargo airlines and two flight schools. The Merced Municipal Airport is the only one that offers passenger service locally.

Fowler declined to discuss whether the county has made progress toward attracting a passenger airline. He’d only say, “We’re always looking.”

Since 2003, the county has spent more than $17 million to turn Castle into a commercially viable airport. Among the biggest improvements is Castle’s refurbished air traffic control tower, which reopened last year after nearly a decade of dormancy.

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