Work plan for Chico airport in progress; meeting on Tuesday the 12th – An update on the Chico Municipal Airport and its work plan is on the agenda for the next Chico Airport Commission meeting. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Old Municipal Building, East Fifth and Main streets. The meeting will be held in the second floor conference room.
A two-year work plan is under development, and the airport staff will provide an overview of the airport, with City Council direction related to
the development of the work plan.
At the last meeting, the commission decided to consider an overview and long-term plan for the airport, after discussing airport parking fees for several months.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Airport Commission struggles with revenue, passenger deficits
By LAURA URSENY
The Chico (CA) Enterprise-Record
CHICO – Facing continual deficits of about $1 million a year and declining passengers, the Chico Municipal Airport is in need of intense treatment, and that’s what the Chico Airport Commission hopes will come of its current work.
Starting to create its 2013-14 work plan Tuesday night, the Airport Commission chalked up a list of priorities, many of them hold-overs from
previous work plans.
They include a long-term plan to help the airport develop that also includes an understanding of the current master plan, completed in 2003.
Financial viability will be key for the airport’s future, including increasing commercial passenger flow, adding another carrier, and filling
building vacancies, which will give the city revenue.
Passenger count fell to about 40,000 last year, down from a 10-year high of about 51,000.
A way to be business friendly, including exploring bus service for airport business services and a zone with incentives, was also mentioned.
City management analyst Debbie Collins, who deals with the airport, presented the overview to the commission.
Commissioners agreed on two committees, one to flesh out the list of priorities, and another to continue working on air carrier service needs.
The goal was to have more in writing by the April 30 meeting.
Hit by the economic downturn, the airport has not been able to generate the kind of revenue to pay for its operation for a number of years, Collins told the commission.
The departure of Aero Union air tankers has meant lost lease revenue. The number of airplanes based at the airport – and paying fees or leases – has dropped, Collins noted.
Commissioners noted that passengers fly out of Sacramento rather than Chico. With fewer passengers flying out of Chico, the amount of passenger facilities fees charged them on airline tickets that help with capital improvement projects has dropped.
Airport Commissioner Karl Ory noted that the deficit is alarming, but there are city elements – like Bidwell Park – that don’t bring in enough revenue to pay its bills. However, some commissioners felt that at least the airport should be “breaking even.”
The city is looking at installing solar panels at the airport to offset costs, Collins said, which could help with the airport’s roughly $64,000
annual power bill.
By policy, revenue generated by the airport, such as by ground leases, stays in the airport fund.
Comments from the public added to the conversation, including why Chico flights can be very expensive. Passenger numbers were also impacted when United Airlines reduced the number of flights serving Chico, Collins noted.
United contracts with Skywest Airlines to provide that commuter service to the only destination out of Chico, San Francisco.
Commissioner Kurt Nathan, who had been working on improving air service earlier in his term, rededicated his time to that area.
Commissioner B.T. Chapman noted that travelers’ habits might change if the city could prove that costs associated with flying out of Sacramento might be more than Chico, justifying a slightly higher local ticket cost. He suggested the cost of gas, vehicle wear, parking and driving time could make the Chico ticket more affordable for travelers.
Pilots are aging and fewer are flying, which means the number of airplanes based at the airport has fallen too, according to Maria Rock, with the fixed-base operator, Northgate Aviation.
Rock noted that the commission’s suggestion to charge for terminal parking and airplane tie-down could send more travelers to Sacramento.
Collins’ presentation included that the number of private planes based in Chico had fallen from a 10-year high of 137 to 99.
Facilities manager Kim Parks also noted that many of the airport’s aviation-related buildings are in bad physical shape and without Americans
with Disabilities Act compliance because they were built in the 1940s during World War II.