Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport (KSTS) is maxing out

After lengthening its main runway to 6,000 feet in 2014 and more recently almost doubling its passenger service terminal, the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport is “maxing out.”

The regional airport now has 15 daily commercial flights to nine western destinations, served by four airlines with one more due to be added in mid-August.

Some of the growth is being accommodated in “long term” temporary facilities and work on a new 450-space parking lot with a large solar collector project is due to break ground in coming days.

Just this month, United Airlines renewed daily connection flights to San Francisco SFO, allowing travelers to connect to longer flights without fighting Highway 101 congestion.

Alaska Airlines has been offering daily flights and anticipates serving 425,000 local passengers this year, according to airport general manager Jon Stout.

The airport is also a busy facility for private aircraft, including the annual July fly-in by corporate jet owners for the Bohemian Grove encampment.

The Sonoma Air Attack Base of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is also located at the airport to provide fire protection throughout northern California. The service averages 300 calls with multiple flights per call each year.

In total, there are 350 people who work at the airport for the various entities which also include two busy charter companies, TruAir and Vine Jet. Actual county government employees total just 19, according to Stout.

“We are an enterprise fund of the county government,” Stout explained. “That means we pay our own way and contribute to the county’s general fund.”

With the completion of the new parking lot, the airport’s solar field will collect one megawatt of power, with excess amounts to be sold on the market as new airport revenue.

The recent terminal expansion, parking lot and other upgrades is part of a $27 million construction project. The project was expanded mid-project because of the new commercial traffic and need for more ticketing stations.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) has rated the airport’s passenger terminal too small for anticipated traffic and another expansion plan is on the drawing boards to begin after 2019.

There is a 2030 Airport Master Plan that anticipates an increase of commercial air passengers to 573,000, 240,000 general aviation flights and 800 airport-based aircraft.

The 6,000-foot main runway is not anticipated to be expanded at the 1,014-acre property, said Stout. The runway length limits the type of planes that can be used by the commercial airlines and also impacts passenger loads on some flights.

Beginning Aug. 24, Sun Country Airlines will begin weekly flights to and from Minneapolis, offering direct connections to Boston and New York.

“That connection is very popular to Wine Country visitors,” Stout said about the pending Sun Country route. “We hope to prove a demand for adding more daily flights in the future.”

The airport currently has service provided by Alaska Airlines to Seattle, Portland, Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego; Allegiant with service to Las Vegas twice per week and American Airlines to Phoenix Sky Harbor.

Also in the future, a shuttle bus will connect the airport to the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) station 1.5 miles east on Airport Blvd.

Original article can be found here:

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