Airport project reignites interest in airport – positive and negative |

Airport project reignites interest in airport – positive and negative

Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Looking west on approach at the landing strip at the Carson City Airport, as seen from the air. The airport's master plan calls for realigning the runway more to the north, so aircraft fly over the Empire Ranch Golf Course instead of homes.

In hindsight, “Jet Ranch” was probably not the best name for a hangar development being planned for the Carson City Airport, say its supporters.

To some people, especially those living near the airport, “it sounds like a place with a lot of planes flying in and out,” said Matt Hansen, of Licata Hansen, the Reno-based firm designing the 3.3 acre hangar project for industrialist Tom Gonzales. Part of the building would stand about 60 feet high. Gonzales intends to keep a large hangar for himself and rent out a dozen smaller ones. There are roughly 175 hangars at the airport now.

“It’s a place to store them,” Hansen said of the project.

The project would add up to 17 aircraft to the airport, and they may not all be jets. Those aircraft would increase air traffic up to an estimated 10 percent. Gonzalez would use the airport only occasionally, so the effect wouldn’t be that significant, said Chris Romine, president of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s local chapter.

“It’s going to be a large hangar, but a beautiful one. I’m looking forward to it because it will be a great way to introduce people to Carson City,” Romine said.

Many residents aren’t sold on the plan, which was approved by the Airport Authority last week and will be in front of the planning commission at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“I don’t care what it’s called,” said Jan Moritz, who lives near the airport. “I still don’t want it there.”

She wants more information, especially about safety, noise and whether aircraft coming and going harm the environment, especially air quality.

About 40 people attended the airport authority meeting last week where the project was given a green light.

Although residents “understand the airport is an important economic engine, they don’t want to be ignored,” said Supervisor Shelly Aldean, who represents Ward 2, where the airport is located.

People for and against the proposal were in attendance. Most of those opposed are from the Apollo Drive neighborhood near the airport, where two small planes have crashed since 2001. Some other concerned residents were from sites east and west of the airport, along the main flightpaths, and concerned about noise almost as much as safety.

Most who spoke in favor of the Jet Ranch are residents involved in aviation.

While many residents consider the Carson City Airport simply a place where recreational pilots leave their planes, most don’t give many of its other functions a second thought. Several aviation businesses operate there, such as Sterling Air, Weaver Aircraft and El Aero Services.

“The airport is crucial to the long-term economic success of our community,” said Joe McCarthy, the city’s economic development manager. Local manufacturers greatly rely on it “to move their goods and their people.”

The airport also provides a site for other nonindustrial aircraft uses. The Nevada Department of Transportation owns a Cessna Citation that flies the governor and other state employees to southern and eastern Nevada. And the Sheriff’s Department Aero Squadron unit, deputized volunteers who pilot for the department, handle such tasks as transporting prisoners and helping conduct searches from the air.

The assumption that the airport only provides a place for a bunch of rich people to soar around in the air for kicks is wrong, Romine said.

Airport officials anticipate more aircraft to be housed at the 531-acre general aviation airport – for business and recreation. The site where the Jet Ranch is being planned, near the center of the airport referred to as “the triangle,” where Taxiway C and Runway 9-27 meet, is set back from the intersection and next to some existing buildings and hangars.

The airport master plan, completed in 2000 and projecting growth up to the year 2020, depicts the triangle filled with hangars of various sizes and adds some larger buildings away from the runway-taxiway intersection next to where the Jet Ranch would be built.

Other sections of the airport are expected to be developed, such as south and west of the runway and east and west of Taxiway Bravo, but this is the area where new construction would be the most concentrated.

“There are new hangars going in all the time at the airport,” Romine said.

Because large airports are increasing their emphasis on providing commercial passenger hubs, smaller airports are going to be more focused on serving business needs, he said.

Industrial and corporate air traffic going in and out of the airport is expected to increase during the coming years, especially after the main runway is realigned. There hasn’t been scheduled passenger air service at Carson City Airport since 1985.

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber or 882-2111, ext. 215.