The Silver Springs Airport is completing an updated master plan and master lease agreement with Lyon County.
The timing couldn’t be much better.
By the end of 2017, the USA Parkway will link Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 50. The new thoroughfare through the midst of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRI) will connect to U.S. Highway 50 just one mile west of the airport.
The new route, designated State Route 439, is expected to reduce the commute distance from Silver Springs to Reno by 38 percent and will position the Silver Springs Airport to be the preferred landing location for corporate jets and air traffic shuttling officials to and from the TRI center.
“The Silver Springs Airport is the ideal place to serve much of the aviation needs of TRI,” Kay Bennett, owner and cofounder of Silver Springs Airport, LLC, noted during a session at the Nevada Economic Development Conference in September.
Plans are also underway to expand Highway 50 from two lanes to four to accommodate future growth in the area.
“That really makes access and commuting very very viable to us,” Bennett said.
Silver Springs will be one of the closest communities to the industrial center and is expected to grow as employees of businesses locating and expanding in TRI center search for housing nearby.
“The airport is gearing up to support this growth (at the TRI center) with the addition of a new hanger, and special VLS Approach landing system that will support jet traffic,” says the airport website.
In the next month, the airport is expected to receive its first delivery of Jet-A fuel.
“That will allow us to fuel corporate jets that fly in and out on a regular bases,” Bennett said in a phone interview with the NNBW.
“We continue to reach out to Lance Gillman and Roger Norman (developers of TRIC),” said Bennett, who with her late husband Hale, built the airport from an abandoned WWII landing strip. “They have been very supportive of our efforts here.”
Officials at TRI confirmed the relationship.
“We at Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center are very supportive of the projected expansion of Silver Springs Airport. This airport will play a key role in the future for regional air travel and cargo needs,” Kris Thompson, TRI project manager, said in an email response to the NNBW. “The management team at Silver Springs Airport has been very pro-active in consulting with us and the companies here at TRI to map out their future.”
A major component of planning for the future of the airport is an update of the Silver Springs Airport Master Plan and the master lease with Lyon County officials.
The airport is a public/private partnership with Lyon County that began 20 years ago. The county owns the land and Silver Springs Airport, LLC, owns and operates the airport.
“If they ran it themselves, they would have to pay staff,” Bennett said. “With a public/private partnership, they get to have the airport and (because of) FAA grants, the LLC can operate it seven days a week.”
The draft master plan was presented to the Lyon County Board of Commission and the public on Sept. 29.
About 150 people attended the meeting, Bennett said. “We had a lot of good support.”
In answer to some concerns, the master plan is being adjusted to limit development to the east side of the airport in order to eliminate encroachment on property to the west side, Bennett said.
The Silver Springs Airport Master Plan, prepared by Colorado-based Armstrong Consultants, projects the needs for the airport for the next 25 years.
In the next five years alone, improvements are planned for the taxiway lighting, an automated weather observation station, additional automobile parking, expansion of the apron, and pavement maintenance, in addition to the storage tank for the Jet-A fuel.
Later additions are proposed to include a general aviation terminal building, helicopter parking pad, taxi-lane construction, storage building, runway extensions and aircraft parking apron expansion.
The 25-year cost is estimated at $26.6 million, with $25 million coming from FAA grants. The balance will require funding from Lyon County and other sources.
The Lyon County Commission will meet Oct. 20 to consider final approval of the Silver Springs Airport Master Plan.
Once the final version of the master plan is approved, the airport and county will refocus attention on the master lease agreement.
Currently the airport is operating with a 50-year lease agreement. The parties are working on extending that to the equivalent of 99 years because of the level of investments planned for the airport.
“It can take a number of different approaches,” Bennett said. “We want to be protective of both sides as we move forward.
“This is a very big step for Lyon County. We want to ensure the performance of the master lease and the tools so that other (county and airport officials) in the future can use it as well.”
Services and Benefits
Currently, about 150 aircraft land each month at the airport with 200-300 operations, Bennett said. The number of operations includes multiple touch-and-go landings for single aircraft.
Naval Air Station Fallon “uses our airport regularly for training,” Bennett said. Training flights that originate from Reno-Stead, Carson City, Minden and Hawthorne airports also use the Silver Springs runway.
“They love to do touch-and-goes at our airport,” she said. “They like it because it’s such an excellent facility and approach … and it’s not as congested as other airports.”
The lack of congestion also draws many small private planes that stop for refueling at Silver Springs.
A small airport like the Silver Springs Airport generally doesn’t generate enough income to support itself, but does provide numerous community benefits.
Besides the people employed by the airport, it benefits business growth in the area by providing easy access to corporate and private planes.
It also supports businesses located at the airport. Currently, seven businesses operate at the Silver Springs Airport including flight instructors, a drone business, and even Silver Stage Motorcycle Academy and Dayton Turf.
As the airport evolves and grows, it will impact the economic engine of the area, Bennett said in September. “The community will grow because of the airport.”