Monday, July 12, 2004
Crowded Bermuda Dunes airport growing
Work has begun to expand useable space
By Jennifer Larson
The Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun
Think it’s hard to get a parking space on Palm Canyon Drive or at The River for your sedan on a weekend night during the season? Try getting a spot for your airplane at the Bermuda Dunes airport during the winter.
There are more than 50,000 takeoffs and landings at the small, privately owned airport that was built in 1963 just south of Country Club Drive in Bermuda Dunes. During the summer, there are perhaps 20 to 50 flights on a typical day, but during the season that jumps to 150 to 200 flights per day.
It accommodates about 30 percent of the general aviation traffic in the Coachella Valley. Mike Smith, the airport’s president and manager, said he doubts that the Palm Springs International Airport could handle that additional traffic if anything ever happened to shut down the Bermuda Dunes Airport.
But all that usage has its side effects: There’s a lengthy waiting list for hangar space, not to mention a crowded parking ramp for the jet aircraft that jockey for space at the airport during the season.
“In season, we’ll be absolutely full,” Smith said. “We’re parking planes one behind the other.”
Brad Ballen, who flies in and out of the airport four or five times a year, agreed.
“In the wintertime, there are times when I fly in and there are no tie-downs available,” said Ballen, president of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s local chapter. “The ramp space is just jammed.”
He has resorted to parking his plane out on the grass beyond the ramp. If it’s windy, he uses his own tie-down stakes to anchor it.
So, the airport is moving earth to clear the way for additional ramp space so pilots will have a place to park and tether their airplanes when they’re not flying them.
The airport, which already has nearly 600,000 square feet of ramp space, will gain another 100,000 square feet after the sand is cleared, Smith said.
The new ramp would accommodate another 40 planes, he estimated.
It’ll take a few more months to finish leveling the sand dune, and then the airport can begin building the extra ramp space late next summer, Smith added.
Don Goldberg, a pilot whose house is adjacent to the airport’s taxiway, said he only wished the ramp would be finished sooner. In October, the members of the Malibu Mirage Owners Pilots Association will fly into the Palm Springs airport from all over the country for a convention.
“It’s too bad that we just couldn’t use the Bermuda Dunes airport,” said Goldberg, who anticipates that about 400 people who fly the high-end aircraft will attend the convention in Indian Wells. “We just didn’t have the space.”
Additional hangar space will be welcomed by many pilots who would like shelter for their planes. Right now the airport can accommodate 55 to 60 airplanes in hangars, Smith said.
“There is big demand,” Goldberg said.
Ballen agreed. He actually keeps his aircraft at the airport in Banning because there was a two-year waiting list at Bermuda Dunes when he was looking for a hangar.
“We know they’re needed,” Smith acknowledged. “I have over 150 people on the waiting list.”
“We will be building more soon,” he said.
The airport has a study under way to examine the need for more hangars. Many pilots like to park their planes inside for the extra security and also to protect them from the elements, especially the desert sun.
The new hangars will eventually be constructed on the east end of the airport site.