A $9.6 million runway project and completion of a Jet Ranch private aircraft facility in 2009 have significantly bumped up the Carson City Airport's status as a competitive 21st century airport.
"My vision is for our airport to become the crown jewel of Nevada airports," Airport Manager Casey Pullman has said.
The realigned and extended runway opens the door to expanded activity at the airport, allowing the biggest business aircraft and more charter planes to land in Carson City, he said.
The runway project was the second step in a series of improvements intended to take the airport into the future.
The first was physically removing the 75-foot-tall hill that used to sit at the end of the runway. With that gone and the direction of the runway changed several degrees, he said, aircraft can now make a much safer direct approach. In the past, the airport operated as a visual-flight-rules-only facility.
"Removing the hill allowed us to have an instrument approach," he said.
Pullman said another important project was installation of a $180,000 weather system that allows pilots across the country to access an immediate report telling them whether they can land in Carson City.
"A lot of charter operations won't come into an airport if it doesn't have forecasted weather," he said.
The project also allows the airport to handle aircraft up to 100,000 pounds, including business jets such as the Gulfstream.
Traffic safety has been improved, as well, with taxiway lights and taxiways on both sides of the runway so aircraft no longer need to cross the runway itself to get to a taxiway.
The changes mean more revenue for the airport as well as the city since charter planes landing here fill their fuel tanks, generating tax revenue for the city.
Improvements may also pave the way to charging larger aircraft a landing fee, generating even more revenue. Small private planes don't have to pay landing fees.
Even more revenue is generated from planes that list Carson City as their base because owners pay an annual personal property tax.
The recent completion of the Jet Ranch, an 84,000-square-foot private aircraft facility at the airport, adds significantly to the airport's value.
The Jet Ranch consists of three buildings and 11 hangars. It is the largest private project ever built at the Carson City Airport, according to builders. The Jet Ranch project offers 10 hangars for lease or sale, ranging in size from 3,400 to 7,500 square feet.
An economic impact study of the Carson City Airport conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Reno, between October 2003 and March 2005 estimated that the airport creates more than $30 million in economic activity a year.
Northern Nevada Development Authority Director Rob Hooper said recently that airports are an essential item on the economic development menu.
"It is a question we are asked almost in every inquiry. Our airports show well and have great management," he said.
Hooper said he has several aerospace firms interested in relocating to Carson City due to the fact they need direct access to the airport for their operations. These kinds of businesses like to cluster together, which attracts other businesses to the airports.
Carson City Airport is also in the process of developing a 30-acre parcel within its boundaries for hangars and other related uses.
"It's a growing operation," Pullman said. "This airport in a few years will be ready for commercial service if we want to go down that path."