Sunday, July 25, 2004
No date yet for Scenic Airlines Las Vegas shuttle
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Sunday, July 25, 2004.
By BOB WILSON
The Antelope Valley (CA) Press
PALMDALE – Officials are shying away from picking a date for Scenic Airlines to finally begin shuttling tourists between Palmdale and Las Vegas. Unofficially, the company is working to have everything in place by Labor Day, according to sources who asked not to be named.>/P>
Those willing to be named said service has been postponed until improvements can be made at North Las Vegas Airport to ensure passenger security.
“When that’s done, then they will be ready to initiate service,” Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said Thursday.
The terminal at North Las Vegas “is basically one big building, and they have to create a secured area to process people and their luggage,” Ledford said.
“I understand (Scenic representatives) are not going to make another (formal) announcement of a date certain” because of past announcements that failed to be realized, he said.
In December, the company announced it would initiate a dozen flights a week on March 1.
That deadline became impossible to meet when U.S. Air Force officials said the screening of passengers would be required if the facility intended to use the runways under its control at Plant 42.
The facility’s commander, Lt. Col. Ronald Ortiz, reaffirmed Thursday that plans for that security had been approved by the Air Force in April.
Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that controls Palmdale Regional Airport’s passenger terminal, has completed the installation of screening equipment on the Palmdale end, said Bob Haueter, senior deputy for 5th District Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.
“At the present time, everything is set and has been put together, but they still have to put in the security and screening complex at the North Las Vegas Airport so passengers can be screened coming in” to Palmdale, Haueter said.
“LAWA has taken care of the things that we needed to do here, and we’re just waiting for (North Las Vegas) to be finished, and then when that’s done, they will announce their start date,” he said.
“Until that security facility is done and complete, and everything else is done, Scenic does not want to announce a date,” Haueter said.
“There will be plenty of notice when they finally do” initiate service, he said.
In announcing their plans, Scenic representatives said their operations would put Las Vegas 75 minutes and $79 away from Palmdale.
Because Scenic typically uses small aircraft and small general-aviation airports, it has not been required previously to screen passengers or luggage – a task typically handled at large airports by the Transportation Security Administration after the 9-11 terrorist attacks on America.
But the lack of such precautions caused concern for the Air Force because of comings and goings of B-2 stealth bombers, F-117 stealth fighters, U-2 spy planes and other military aircraft.
Scenic’s eventual arrival “is a a done deal,” Haueter reiterated. “The thing that kind of threw everybody for a loop was the screening process, which is not something that is done at any other airport with that size of plane.”
“However, there no other situation where that size of an airplane has been flown into a secure area like Plant 42,” he said.
Messages left Thursday for Mary Schneider, executive vice president of finance, and Mitzi Daines, director of marketing, for Scenic drew no immediate response.
Scenic Airlines has offices and provides tourists services in 26 overseas countries. It is seeking to capitalize on that business by promoting trips from Las Vegas to Southern California tourist attractions such as television-studio tours, beaches and amusement parks while giving residents of Santa Clarita, Palmdale, Lancaster and other cities and towns flight service to Las Vegas and beyond without the congestion found at Los Angeles International, Burbank and other airports.
Palmdale would join Merced and Ely, Nev., in being served on a daily basis by Scenic Airlines.