The Carson City Airport is successful despite a decline in aviation, Tim Rowe, airport manager, told a Rotary Club luncheon audience Tuesday.
That doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park, Rowe indicated, let alone to the bank. So he took the chance to talk of progress, successes, challenges and tout the airport’s Open House & Fly-In event set for Saturday, June 20.
“We’re being marginally successful,” said Rowe, citing pros and cons of the current environment in the field of aeronautics. “Aviation is in decline.”
The helicopter and jet pilot running the Nevada capital city’s airport cited four fixed base operators there as among the successes, as well as acceptance in 2001 of the airport’s master plan by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and reconstruction of runways for $30 million — most of it federal money — since 2009 that now is nearing completion. He said it has been done with 95 percent federal funds.
But he said the number of pilots and people in aviation has declined. Major airlines are picking them off for commercial jobs at those large carriers flying to and from major airports, while general aviation airports like the one here are seeing “much lower activity” in many places. He said the open house here later this month offers a chance to showcase what’s going on now and help promote what revival is possible in the field.
“We have a lot of things going on to provide knowledge of aviation opportunities,” he said.
He cited various ways to interest young people in aviation and help such a revival gain traction, among them Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) science camps and the EAA Young Eagles program, Civil Air Patrol programs, and work his airport does with Western Nevada College, other postsecondary schools in aviation, and the Carson City School District.
He also said the Ninety-Nines, a group originally founded by Amelia Earhart and 98 other licensed female pilots, has scholarships to help youngsters eager to get into the field.
“Aviation is a wide open opportunity,” he said. He acknowledged much training is required, such training is costly and financial rewards take time. But he predicted that may change as aging pilots leave service and compromises regarding the extensive training must be made so openings don’t go begging. “I think it’s all about to change.”
The airport open house from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on June 20, which is free, features various hands-on or simulated activities to give youngsters and adults a look at aeronautics. They include formation flights, antique airplanes, flybys, simulated space missions, radio-controlled model aircraft, balloon rides and scenic flights.
Regarding his airport’s “marginally successful” status, Rowe said the Carson City facility does well compared with other general aviation airports in this region.
“We’re pretty busy; we’re the busiest general aviation airport in Northern Nevada,” he said.
He also said his airport is “playing nice” with the FAA regarding some things local aeronautics people would like to see change, adding such things take time. Asked about night restrictions on landings due to terrain, he voiced the hope those would be lifted after an FAA flight check. He also predicted eventual positive fallout for the area and the airport from surface transportation changes.
“Once the USA Parkway is built, we will see some trickle down,” he said. The USA Parkway extension will connect Interstate 80 with U.S. Highway 50 and improve the region’s surface transport network.