Chico one step closer to commercial air service

With the awarding of federal dollars, the City of Chico is one step closer to seeing commercial air service return to the region

Posted: Mar 3, 2020 9:43 AM
Updated: Mar 3, 2020 11:26 AM

CHICO, Calif. -- Efforts to return commercial air service to the Chico Municipal Airport are moving forward, in part due to a recently awarded federal grant.

The City of Chico has announced it has been awarded a Small Community Air Services Development Grant, known as SCASD, for $500-thousand dollars.

Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough talked with the Airport Manager and the Director of Public works about what the grant funds mean for the proposal.

City of Chico Public Works Director Erik Gustafson says having commercial air service in the region would be a positive growth factor for the region.

"It's a huge economic boost to our region; the airport is the business card for the community,” explains Gustafson.

The SCASD grant funds will now be added to the $150-thousand from the city and local business interests already placed in a revenue guarantee bank. That 'bank' is essentially funds that are set aside to assure if an air carrier chooses to establish service from Chico, that company will not lose money.

Gustafson says when airlines make a decision to come to a new market, setting up shop can be an expensive proposition which is the purpose of a revenue guarantee bank.

“It’s sort of like an impound account to help them stay profitable and not take too many losses,” says Gustafson.

Yarbough asked Gustafson and Airport Manager Sherry Miller what comes next now that the SCASD grant has been awarded. They say the primary focus for the city will now be marketing.

First steps will be to bolster the revenue guarantee bank by building an even more robust account focusing on revenue coming from local business and education interests. Miller and Gustafson say the goal is to have at least $1-million in the account and preferably as much as $2-million.

The next step would be to actively market commercial air service and advertise the fact Chico offers such a service. Miller and Gustafson says once the airport secures a carrier and service, the task will be to make sure that service is secure and sustainable.

In addition to the SCASD grant, Gustafson says the city is also exploring an F.A.A. grant in order to pursue $14-million dollars in runway repairs and looking into an Economic Development Grant which would be used for infrastructure upgrades to Cohasset Road, which would include widening and pavement improvements.

It is a multi-pronged approach both Miller and Gustafson believe will make Chico that much more attractive to a potential carrier.
“We have 700 people leave this area each day; we could fill two commercial planes a day and we think there’s a business case here,” says Gustafson.

Current Airport Manager Miller, who has for the past two years, overseen progress on developing commercial air service for Chico, will be leaving her position in May. Gustafson says the city is now actively searching for her replacement, but that efforts will continue on developing air service.

He says the city is currently in discussions with several carriers which have expressed interest in Chico; made more attractive due to the SCASD grant. He says the next step is for the grant to formally be approved and then the city has four years to utilize the federal dollars.

Gustafson adds, the community must buy-in to the concept and support air service by using it; that is purchasing tickets.
He says if all elements of the plans fall into place, commercial air service for Chico could still be at least two years in the making.

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