Officials talk regional air service for Eastern Sierra

By Deb Murphy

The consultant’s presentation of a draft air service strategic plan fell a little short of expectations at Thursday’s meeting of the Mammoth/Inyo County working group focused on reliable Eastern Sierra air service.

Mammoth’s Public Works Director Grady Dutton warned the audience the draft, prepared by Mead & Hunt, was just that. “We have a long way to go,” he said. “Nothing precludes regional service at both airports.”

In all fairness, the presentation’s mind-numbing numbers did point the group, formed by the Eastern Sierra Council of Governments, in a direction. The presenter Jeff Hartz just didn’t identify that direction.

In a nutshell: the size and distance limitations of planes that can land at Mammoth/Yosemite Airport could define the eventual marketing plan. The obvious answer was a commitment by Mammoth to partner with the Bishop airport, but that prospect was glossed over by Hartz’ presentation. Apparently, looking at Bishop would require more than the $70,000 cost of the eventual plan.

Many of the urban areas that fall within the 6-700 mile range limitation on smaller airplanes are also near other ski resorts.

Mammoth’s reliability was “decent,” according to Hartz until the 2016-17 season of endless snow when the number of flights was down by 31-percent over the 2014 peak season.

The shiny pot at the end of the air service rainbow was the $600 spent by each airline passenger, compared to the $56.82 subsidy paid to Alaska Airlines.

Inyo’s administrative officer Kevin Carunchio laid into Hartz during the comment period. He explained that some of the information on Bishop was wrong or not up to date, presenting a dire picture of the airport’s potential to handle commercial air service. He outlined work completed and in progress at the airport and asked that the next draft include those corrections.

In a phone interview Monday, Inyo Supervisor Jeff Griffiths, a member of the working group but unable to attend the presentation, said the 139 compliance, that will include the timeline and cost of prepping Bishop for commercial air service, is near completion and will be fact checked by the Federal Aviation Administration. “Then we can move on to talk about regional air service,” he said. He anticipates a statement of intent for Mammoth and Inyo County to work together will be signed within the next few months.

At the conclusion of the comment period, Mono Supervisor Bob Gardner described the presentation as “good marketing stuff” he said. “I’m not looking at collaboration. What makes more sense is one airport and using funding to maximize that.”

Bishop Mayor Joe Pecsi agreed with Gardner, but wanted the few pages on the Bishop facility corrected.

“Everybody wants reliable air service,” Mammoth Tourism Executive Director John Urdi said in a phone interview. The consultant presented the facts, he added. “Now the groups can get together and develop a plan based on that data.”

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Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
4 years ago

Traveler….and no way to get around either….and where would many of them stay ?….I know there are many Bishop motels,but also know they sometimes fill up ,even without the airport and passengers looking for a room…maybe they’ll have to bed-down in the City Park under some bushes amongst the others… Read more »

Traveler
Traveler
4 years ago

Like I asked previously, when an aircraft that seats over 149 people lands in Bishop, how are the passengers going to get anywhere after collecting their luggage? Considering local hotels serve visitors traveling by car, is there enough lodging for everyone? Especially on a busy weekend? Might be good to… Read more »

Almost Native
Almost Native
4 years ago

Low , I think you are partly right , but wrong about a few of your comments. Bishop, will never attrack more then a couple passenger fights a day. We could possibly attract some cargo planes that would create jobs here. It would also make it easier for our families… Read more »

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
4 years ago

Thumbs down on my post ?….think most people that want such a thing are only all in it for the $$$$…hoping an airport would mean needing rental car business’….hoping for more motel usage….business,business,business…..money,money,money….never mind the fact loud overhead airplanes taking off and landing all hours of the day and night…think… Read more »

Pedro
Pedro
4 years ago
Reply to  Low-Inyo

LoYoYo,

You go from it’s silly to even think there will ever be passenger service in Bishop to 24hr. nonstop traffic.

You working for Mammoth to keep us trapped in their disaster?

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
4 years ago
Reply to  Pedro

Pedro….You know….I know…EVERYBODY knows there will never be some type of municipal airport in Bishop,California or anywhere else here in the Owens Valley,landing large passenger planes packed with rich tourists…anymore than there’s ever going to be a Super-Walmart located on Main St…you see,it’s all about the $$$ and who has… Read more »

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
4 years ago
Reply to  Low-Inyo

@Low-Inyo, Many small communities have regional air service. And like the vast majority of those small towns, Bishop would likely see no more than a flight or two a day, maybe even less. Not nearly as intrusive as you have suggested. On the bright side, those traveling by air wouldn’t… Read more »

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
4 years ago

IMO,it’s silly to even think there will EVER be an airport in Bishop that would be able to land passenger jets…and on top of that….why ?

Patricia Rowbottom
Patricia Rowbottom
4 years ago

Interesting waste of money for these consultant’s reports when the basis for them are FAA Part 139 which anybody could download and read, plus a complete Master Plan was done for Bishop Airport over 10 years ago that was more comprehensive…except costs would have inflated by now. Commercial passenger airports… Read more »