Opinion Piece By Samuel Strait – September 19, 2017 – I wait with bated breath to see what fiasco that our Boarder Coast Regional Airport Authority (BCRAA pronounced “bic -rah”) and its master of manufactured cheeriness, Director Matthew Leitner. will inflict on the flying population of Del Norte County. Of course the blame for this comedy of errors cannot solely be laid at the feet of the authority and its staff as much of the blame for lack of any kind of success should also include the loud voices of our anti-development environmental community. Had the authority forged ahead early on and ignored the irrational demands by those self same individuals, Sky West to Sacramento and San Francisco may just have been rescued. We are now, post 2013, living in an entirely different Commercial Carrier landscape which does not bode well for the future of commercial air service into and out of Crescent City.
While we might have been dealing with the current change in service providers last Spring had the Authority bothered to look into the financial health of PenAir prior to renewing the two year Essential Air Service contract, I suppose that is too much to ask from Mr. Leitner. I suppose it is also too much to ask where the additional 10,000 passenger emplanements are going to come from if the destination points are Portland and Oakland, or Portland and Sacramento. I cannot see much opportunity to reach the necessary 20,000 passenger emplanements threshold with that sorry list of destinations particularly in light of the entrenched anti-development, anti-economic growth environment that currently inhabits nearly every government meeting conducted within the County and in the pages of our very own print newspaper, the Triplicate.
Before we look at the problems of limping along with no coherent strategy for making commercial air services both enduring and viable as well, let us look at our current prospects for that service, Great Lakes Airline and Boutique Air. Great Lakes Airline was founded in the late 70’s in the Midwest. At its high point, yes, its high point, it serviced 120 airports around the Country and had inter line agreements with several major carriers. In recent years the mighty has fallen to it’s current form where it services but eleven, yes that’s eleven, one, one, airports through out the United States. It services it’s current inventory of airports with thirty ageing prop planes, none of which are currently manufactured. Only four of Great Lakes Airlines eleven airports are subsidized with EAS funding. They predict that they will be able to operate at about forty percent capacity and only require a $2.5 million dollar subsidy. Many of Great Lakes Airlines EAS serviced communities no longer have commercial air service and a few have been picked up by Boutique Air. This should give someone, anyone, who is in charge at the Authority some kind of clue as to where this is all heading.
Boutique Air is a relatively new comer to the field of Commercial Carrier service, having opened its doors in 2007, but waited until 2013 to begin passenger carrying on scheduled routes. All of the airports that they service are EAS. They currently have an inventory of twenty five single engine planes to service 32 airports. Quite a trick. Both planes used by Boutique Air are currently being manufactured. As a newcomer without much history, the routes that they have been able to begin service are generally those that have lost their providers, and some were formerly served by Great Lakes Airlines in New Mexico and Arizona. Boutique Air will require a subsidy of slightly over $4 million to provide three daily flights to Portland and two-three flights daily to Oakland. In the wild world of changing fortunes for commercial airlines, it is difficult to determine what the future holds for Boutique Air, but is it a gamble as to how long they will last?
As an airport that currently emplanes less than thirty passengers per day or eight per flight, the carrying capacity of Boutique’s planes match up pretty well for capacity, but leave very little room for increased emplanements in the future and would be impossible to ever get to the 20,000 emplanement threshold necessary for consideration by the FAA for funding to lengthen the runway. Great news for the anti-development environmental crowd, not so great for those of us who would like to see Del Norte County grow and prosper. Great Lakes on the other hand can easily handle the load with plenty of room for expansion on their thirty passenger planes. Ah, the 20,000 enplanement threshold is possible. Sacramento as a destination might be pleasing to those in our government sector, but both Portland and Sacramento are considerably less serviceable for the general public.
And finally the last bit of “good” news is that the destinations for Great Lakes is Portland and Sacramento, and Boutique Air is Portland and Oakland. Apparently San Francisco (SFO) is out of the question for our current guru of airport usage and common sense. While it is very unlikely that Sacramento, Portland or Oakland are in any combination going to be good for emplanements, choice, and ease of use, it is what it is. Perhaps Mr. Leitner might just invest some time in the next two years to try and attract an airline which goes to Sacramento and San Francisco, and maybe the numbers at the airport will go up, maybe to 20,000, and it would have the additional benefits of attracting both a longer runway and the repayment of the County’s loan for the largely underutilized future “New” airport terminal. May all of the anti-economic development environmentalists scurry to their respective safe spaces. I still am having difficulty with why only thirty days were given as the time line for finding a new carrier and why San Francisco was not included as one of the destinations. What does Mr. Leitner get, a kick back if he keeps shoving Portland down our throats? One can only hope…..
8 thoughts on “Wait with bated breath on what happens next at our airport”
Jason is right to say Del Norte County is pissing away taxpayer money on a frivolous pursuit for lining the pockets of Chair Howard’s employers. What a mess. The County pays $291,000.00 per year to subsidize BCRAA AND another $96,000.00 to pay for the 2.8 million dollar loan that was taken from Del Norte County Trust (mitigation fees). In the meantime the destiny of EAS FUNDING is questionable and the mere fact that Chair Howard, Lori Cowan, and Hemmingsen thinks that is how to budget. The question that needs to be asked publicly is how much has BCRAA paid on their $2.8 million dollar loan? Oh wait!! another question. Del Norte County owns the land on the airport, BCRAA was created in 2007 so that BCRAA could “LEASE” THE LAND FROM DEL NORTE COUNTY. BCRAA and Del Norte County are one in the same how can Del NOrte County sign a Lease on BCRAA TERMS when Del NOrte County owns the land? Back to question number 1.
Nancy, you are so right. We can’t augment our badly needed code enforcement or provide adequate law enforcement because of this whole airport fiasco. I would have modified the existing terminal for ADA compliance and perhaps new roof, landscaping, and paint-enough done.
Who flies out of the airport? Bureaucrats attending meetings at taxpayer expense. What good do these meetings do? None. This should be a county airport with prop planes and Cal-Ore service. It’s that simple. A ridiculous situation.
Spot on as usual, WTF. Hidden motives may be revealed by finding who bought up private property surrounding the airport runway years ago.
Wes, as always you are a wealth of information. I can only imagine who the investors are. Of course there are always ulterior motives that we never hear about. I guess we have to resign ourselves to the fact that with this current Board, the right thing will never get done.
It has been months ago, now that I asked the question, “Can the construction of the new air terminal be shelved?”, of one of the Supervisors who voted against funding phase two of Finigan’s Folly, and the answer is, No! The current three Supervisors who approved the continuation of the project, Howard, Cowan, and Hemmingsen, committed Del Norte County and $2.8 million dollars to finish the project. No real viable way to wiggle out of it.
The only good news is that the BRCAA may be able to find a replacement carrier whose passengers may eventually repay the loan with interest. Otherwise it will become a dead looser if the airport doesn’t have a commercial air carrier, EAS or otherwise. Given the choices of destinations, it might take awhile.
I had to chuckle over Jason’s vain attempt to characterize my questioning Matthew Leitner’s fixation with Portland as a destination city as libel or a disgusting personal attack, when he piled on Mr. Leitner with regard to his salary. I guess it depends on who is attacking, if it is disgusting or not?
If you will read “Airport Part Two” you will find most of what else he complains about isn’t true. As far as the land and Chair Howard’s employers, I believe only County land was involved in a proposed swap at eleven acres to one for each of the four acres required to add to the current runway. It seemed at the time that the County wouldn’t roll over to the demands of the enviro terrorists. It was the first time that I experienced a weepy, distraught Eileen Cooper and the fabled “Western Lilly” go to defense of the fragile ecosystem. But now that a commercial passenger jet has landed, the lengthened runway is a moot point. While we don’t appear to have anything remotely resembling a satisfactory solution, destination is everything, it is what it is. It would be the height of folly to cease air service with $2.8 million in the maw of Finigan’s Folly and some slim chance of getting it back from those that use the new terminal. Jason’s fantasy about taxpayer subsidies of passengers airfare is just that.
The one other thing I find is a hoot, is Jason complaining about spending $200,000 on salaries, or $292,000 on the Airport Authority, but not a word, as he is prone to do, about $1,500,000 on the equally inept Del Norte Solid Waste Authority, go figure. Who knows what else in the way of Commissions, Boards and other quasi government spin offs consume even more tax dollars at what benefit to the citizens of this County? Seem like a spot for another fact finding adventure, the Del Norte County Fair Board or maybe the Harbor, perhaps?
So now you’ve taken to outright lying to attack me? Please point out where I mentioned $292,000 in my comments? Also you’re going CONVICT ME of NOT attacking the solid waste authority, like you did? WTF kind of insanity is that! Since when is it a crime to NOT cheat on your taxes? YOU SIR ARE IN IDIOT! I’m thinking we should start calling you Sam Crooked!
As far as libel in concerned, YOU know exactly what I was referring to! When you start screaming “KICKBACK”, like Sutter’s “WHOREHOUSE” or Westfall’s oft repeated “CORRUPTION”, you are treading on libel whether you like it or not. You’re all hiding behind the “opinion” scam which has been countered successful in any number of courts. Of course the folks at Half Baked…..I mean SHORT BUS NEWS wouldn’t know that. I think the only thing that is protecting the three of you, from a suit, is that collectively you don’t have a pot to piss in! Regardless calling somebody a whore or corrupt or accusing them of taking kickbacks, without any proof, ever, is disgusting! And points out the true low-lifes that you all are! The difference between ‘kickbacks” and the Airport Director’s salary is that the first is an unproven lie and his salary is public record! So NO I wasn’t piling on! And to blame him for flights to PDX meets the clinical definition of Paranoia! You know damn well the “new airlines” propose their own routes!
I’ve been against the insane super-expansion of the terminal from the get go. At one point the fools in charge wanted to expand it 20 fold or big enough to fill several 737s at the same time! Yet in the numerous times I’ve flown out of Crescent City I’ve never seen so many people waiting that they’ve had to stand outside! So if we would have doubled the size of the existing terminal and the bathrooms AND ripped out the “asbestos” we’d be good to go for another 30 years! Total cost to the taxpayers $250,000 or so!
Let’s talk about the love of your life, Crooked Sam, SkyWest. They sucked! My 50% reliable, on time, statistic is from personal experience, not from your cooked statistics! They canceled ALL flights one day, upon my arrival at the airport, due to PAPERWORK. Are you freaking kidding me? My standard operating procedure for important business or important connections was to fly to SFO the DAY BEFORE! And you were betting on these fools to rip half the seats out of a jet to provide half empty jet service CEC-SFO-CEC LMAO!
Finally lets address your pathetic, childish and naïve idea that there is right pocket and left pocket government moneys, to blow up your idea that overflight fees aren’t our tax dollars. Governments collect moneys in all kinds of ways and should put them all in a general fund and then pay their bills out of same. That would be very simple for many of us to keep track of. So the US government, states, counties, cities, districts etc. choose to collect taxes in numerous ways and move the money around at will to keep taxpayers confused. Social Security, is of course, the best example! Or look at the California gasoline tax and, what it was spent on and the condition of 101 south! So to think that EA$ subsidies in the million$, airport terminal$ in the ten$ of million$, terminal loan$ at $2.8 million and annual airport operation$ in the hundred$ of thousand$ are all paid for by MAGIC, “non tax payer” dollars$ is ignorance of the lowest $ort! Or simply BS. GET A GRIP!
But to spend those kinds of dollars to fly a few folks, daily, to Oakland, Sacramento or Portland…really? Yes we are pissing away millions of OUR dollars for a few folks per day.
Passengers in the greater metropolitan areas (SFO, LAX, PDX, SMF etc.) regularly leave home 4 hours before flight time. Are you really willing to blow these kinds of dollars so a few people don’t have to leave for Arcata 2 hrs. early? Why not start a HIGHLY SUBSIDISED bus service to Arcata instead… oh crap we already have that… or maybe we should just pay for a taxi instead…using those UNICORN NON Tax Dollars no doubt that would be cheaper too. There you go SAM CROOKED, CEC to ACV USING THOSE FREE TAX DOLLARS, FASTER THAN PEOPLE LIVING NEAR A MAJOR AIRPORT AND RIGHT TO SFO!
Your opinion piece is little more than a disgusting personal attack including the libelous accusation of bribery. If you have proof get it out in the open!
For our area to meet the requirement for Federal dollars, to fund runway extension will require that the population of Del Norte County doubles. Only that will double passengers (emplanements). No not even the loudmouth ecoterrorists can be blamed for that failure!
“Saving” Sky West was therefore a pipe dream. The minute they dropped turboprops our fate was sealed. But did we really want to save that deteriorating service? Before they left is seemed the were delayed or cancelled about half the time due to a little rain, or such, at SFO and the resulting single runway. THAT you can blame on the ecoterrorists!
What you should be asking yourself is when in enough enough? We are pissing away our tax dollars at an alarming rate, with no end in sight, for your 30 passengers a day! For them we are building an outrageously expensive terminal. For them we not only require an airport director but also an airport manager, for a total of about $200K per year! For those 30 passengers per day one of the applying airlines wants a subsidy of $4 MILLION or about $365 PER TICKET! And for them, EVEN IF WE DOUBLED THEM, YOU’d like to spend another $100 MILLION for longer runways? WTF?
Jason, you on spot on with this statement, and Sammy is only driven by his lack of sense.
Look at all his comments and statements this guy needs help.
And his odd friends as well…