Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Commentary by Samuel Strait – March 3, 2023

As promised here is a bit more information surrounding the mess at Jack
McNamara Regional Airport that services the area around Crescent City
for commercial air service to Oakland, California. Recently, the
Director of the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority, (BCRAA) Ryan Cooley, updated the
Del Norte County Board of Supervisors regarding their match to a grant
authored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to the tune of just over
$9 million for the purpose of refurbishing the runways at the local
airport.  Unfortunately for Mr. Cooley, he is clearly not at all pro
active in addressing the actual problems that have plagued the County’s
only Airport since service to San Francisco and Sacramento were
suspended almost a decade ago when Sky West ceased operations to those
destinations.  Since that time enplanements have plummeted, we have a
fancy but useless new terminal to maintain, and no way for commercial
air service to grow.

In spite of all the euphoria over the construction of a new terminal at
Jack McNamara Field, service from the airport remains a one horse
commercial airline operation to Oakland, California with few options for
inexpensive service other than to the Southwestern part of the United
States.  The Operator, Contour Air, has no inter airline agreements with
any other airlines, except American which does not operate out of
Oakland.  Hence, passengers with flights on other airlines to other
locations must collect luggage, check in to following flights, and go
through security a second time.  That or seek transportation to San
Francisco to perform the same operation at SFO for out bound flights.

Airline travel in the current age has become much less trouble free and
the addition of extra steps during a trip can cause all sorts of
issues.  Prior to the gaggle of airlines that have operated out of
Crescent City over the past decade from Crescent City to first Portland
and now Oakland, many passengers found traveling through San Francisco
or Sacramento a much better option with fewer in-terminal issues, more
out bound options, and normally less expensive flights.   When Sky West
ceased operation to the Bay Area, the reasoning was that the regional
airline at the time was transitioning from prop driven planes to 44
passenger regional jets, which cannot land at Jack McNamara Airport due
to a short runway.

Rather than make the effort to correct that deficiency and seek funding
to lengthen the runways, the BCRAA chose to accept funding for the new
terminal.  Nearly $50 million later, the new terminal has been completed
and is not much more than a pass through terminal that will shortly
begin to require regular serious maintenance.  While the old terminal
may have not been an architect’s wet dream, it served the purpose of
enplaning passengers without the financial burden the new terminal will
place on departing and arriving passengers.  For those that fly, you
didn’t really think there wouldn’t be an additional cost, did you?

As such we now have a wonderful and expensive show place terminal with
daily service in thirty passenger Embraer ERJ-135 jets to Oakland
California where fares can range from a bit over $200 round trip in the
off season to over $500 in the peak season.  The $14.7 million subsidy
for essential service allows Contour Air to service a maximum of 10,500
enplanements per year, about 60% of the enplanements the last year Sky
West serviced Crescent City with no real room for increasing that
service.  Contour Air is maxed out with little room to grow.

So where does one go if Oakland, California doesn’t suit your travel
plans?  Medford, Oregon?  Arcata, California?  Portland, Oregon? Or
maybe all the way to the Bay Area.  Looks like 40% of the potential air
traffic out of the County already has made that choice.  Is there a
solution for what ails the BCRAA?  Certainly, a longer runway, service to
SFO and Sacramento on the new 44 passenger regional jets.  Welcome to
the modern world of aviation.  Better, less painful service to
destinations that provide greater options, with less expensive fares. 
New and wider runways, not hampered by FAA funding guidelines.  More
rigorous safety regulations surrounding the Air service and its crews.
Larger aircraft with an opportunity to grow enplanements and increase
economic development.   Perhaps as Supervisor Howard is want to say,
“Lets be more pro active.”   If grant funding to the tune of $9 million
could be found to merely refurbish the existing runways, perhaps a bit
more pro active thinking could land enough funding to really make a
difference at Jack McNamara Airport.  No need to drive to Medford,
Arcata, Portland or the Bay Area; fast efficient regional jets to the
rescue with plenty of room to grow.

7 thoughts on “The Border Coast Regional Airport Authority”
  1. Has anyone reached out to JSX?

    They are a great option that could connect Concord/Napa and Oakland to Crescent City.

  2. Contour Airlines should have service to another airport where connections with their interline partner American has service such as Sacramento. That actually makes a lot of sense. San Francisco makes some sense but is a much worse airport than Oakland and ALOT more crowded. Making connections in Oakland is actually not too bad unless you have checked bags. Otherwise it’s pretty easy to get from gate to gate. I believe the community voted to keep Oakland when this issue came up several years ago. So the people have spoken. The authors suggestion to make longer runways is pretty laughable since there is ocean and state parks on three sides and private property and Washington Blvd the other way. That would cost millions and millions of dollars. It makes zero sense to have bigger jets in podunk CC. Not enough people. Spend fifty million making longer runways only to end up with the same aircraft we have now!!!

    1. My oh my, how little you know about the situation out at the airport. The lengthening of the runways was a topic of discussion prior to the construction of the new terminal. It was only because of the lure of grant funding for the terminal that took the BCRAA in the direction they went. There was always sufficient land for the lengthened runways. By going the direction that they, the BCRAA, went there will be no growth or increased enplanements because Oakland and the fact that Contour Air cannot fly into San Francisco, will limit the the number of people that fly from Crescent City. Prior to cessation of service to Sacramento and San Francisco by Sky West there was nearly double the traffic Contour Air now carries. And they are nearly maxed out. Sky West merely wished to use the more efficient 44 passenger regional jets, something Contour Air cannot. Any pretense that flying into Oakland is a “good” choice, or that locals “chose” Oakland is a myth. The choice at the time was Portland or Oakland, hardly much of a choice, which was no choice at all. Sure San Francisco is a large airport and suffers at times with weather, but it has far greater choices and connections which are more economical and for connecting flights do not require going to recheck in, recheck luggage, or go through security a second time. It also does not require a trip across the Bay to access flights across the Country or overseas something that is very limited in the Oakland Airport. The BCRAA is already planning on spending nearly $10 million on refurbishing the current runways with no vision for future growth. Sad, when you think about it. No vision, much like what else passes for leadership in this, as you refer to it a “podunk” town. Clearly you think the same way that City and County leaders have thought. Grand and showy edifices that do nothing for the people in this area and satisfied with that dismal prospect. No wonder the town and County is shrinking, and will likely continue to do so. Very disappointed with your lack of any kind of vision going forward Mr. Thompson, for growth is the only thing this community should be all about, not stagnation.

      1. “No wonder the town and county is shrinking.” Can you elaborate on this as I have not seen much shrinking.

        1. Census in 2020 shows the City lost close to 1,000 in population since 2010. Some of this is due to shrinkage of the inmate population at Pelican Bay. The County losses are around 800.0 since 2010.

        2. Same here. I see more traffic, homes being built, busier stores, and more people in general. Not that long ago I could go to beaches, river, or favorite trails and not see another person.

  3. The last time I took a plane trip was in 1999 and have no desire to ever fly again due to all of the games airlines play in pricing along with minimal onboard services, not to mention that airport security personnel treat passengers as if they are potential terrorists. I miss flying as it used to be before the 1978 airline deregulation when it was a real treat to board a plane. If I travel now, it is in my own car.

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