Small air services leaving Reno-Tahoe airport
RENO (AP) – A group of aviation pilots is complaining that the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority is strategically forcing them from airport property to make room for new business development, but airport executives say it’s not true.
Authority officials confirmed Thursday they soon will announce plans for a new business with high-paying jobs to relocate to the airport. But they denied that the pilots are being forced out to make room.
Sierra Air and Jet West have been providing hangar space at the airport for decades. But officials for the Reno-Tahoe Aviation Association say the two will leave when their leases expire June 30 due to a significant increase in leasing fees.
Airport officials said the leases are being adjusted to market value, but that the airport is willing to surrender a former clause in the contracts that would give the airport a 6 percent cut of the companies’ gross revenues.
“We are not, in fact, asking any members of the general aviation community to leave the airfield,” Krys Bart, authority president and CEO, said.
“However, today, what we find is a small group of pilots who are upset. Upset that their landlord has decided for business reasons to leave this airport. And in the case of one of those landlords, they would have required an investment to bring the property up to current standards.
“We are not here to spend money to build new hangars for those tenants at the airport. We are not here to bail out people who can afford the luxury of their own personal aircraft,” she said.
John Howitt, vice president of the Reno-Tahoe Aviation Association, said the airport tried to push through its plans without input from the private pilots.
“So far in the process, we have just been told how it is going to be,” he told a Reno newspaper.
The dispute has drawn the attention of the Washoe County Commission. On June 22, commissioners will seek a resolution to change the way the airport authority moderates general aviation.
The commission will request the policies on general aviation be decided by the airport’s board of directors and not by airport management, Commissioner Bob Larkin said. He said he is concerned airport management is not reinvesting in general aviation, instead putting its efforts in commercial aviation.
As a result, he said the county is in jeopardy of losing as much as $2 million a year in tax revenue.
“That is the revenue from the personal property tax for the personal aircraft that are registered and hangared in Washoe County,” he said, adding that a private aircraft that is valued at $13 million pays personal property taxes of $90,000 a year.
“And these guys are being told that they can either take the deal offered at Reno-Tahoe or go out to Stead,” he said, referring to the small airport north of town.