Monday, January 1, 2007
After five-year absence, air service returning
By Lindsay Riddell
The North Bay (CA) Business Journal
SANTA ROSA – After a five-year pursuit, commercial service will return to the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport in March, news celebrated by the business community and residents who have had to commute to Bay Area airports for the last five years. The Transportation Security Administration also made a commitment to pay for private security screeners at the airport after initially indicating it didn’t have the budget or the personnel to place screeners. Horizon Air plans to begin two daily flights to Los Angeles and one daily flight to Seattle beginning March 20 from the airport in northern Santa Rosa.
United Express stopped its commercial service in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks sparked a travel slowdown. United Express, owned by United Airlines, operated 30-passenger turboprops out of Sonoma County from 1986 until October 2001.
Even when air travel rebounded from the Sept. 11 attacks, airport manager Jon Stout found it difficult to court a new carrier to the county. One by one carriers passed on the airport citing an array of hurdles, including the length of the runway – Sonoma County’s is the shortest commercial runway in the state – outdated equipment and too much fog.
It took Horizon several years to commit to Sonoma County one of its new Bombardier 74-passenger turboprop airplanes on order. The planes are capable of landing and taking off from the shorter runway and carry enough people to make service profitable, Horizon has said.
Business leaders still are pushing for eastward flights so they can more easily connect to locations across the country.