The Mammoth Airport is about to get busy as commercial air service gears up for a second year in a row. Commercial air service has been a goal for Mammoth Mountain and the Town of Mammoth Lakes for years. Last year, one flight a day serviced the Eastern Sierra. By many accounts, it was a successful venture from the perspective of passenger numbers.
This year, Horizon Air service has expanded to two flights a day out of Los Angeles. Horizon has also added additional flights out of San Jose, Seattle, Portland and Reno. Time will tell how many people will use these new air connections to Mammoth. Last season about 5500 people flew into Mammoth with the one flight per day with about 5300 people on the outbound Horizon flight.
This year there are four flights a day, so the assumption is that the number of enplanements will greatly increase, a number that is important to the town finances.
According to a story filed by reporter Lara Kirkner, the town council is depending on the increase in passengers to help pay down the cost of improvements at the airport. The FAA is set to give the Town $1 million a year to pay for capital expenses at the airport if there are 10,000 enplanements or more each year. An enplanement basically counts the number of outbound passengers.
The town has already financed the airport to the tune of $5.5 million, (roughly) not including the $3 million in legal expenses and the potential $30 million judgment against the town over a failed real estate deal at the airport.
Despite the grim financial back story, commercial air service is set to start up again for the season Thursday. A successful season would be welcome by many in the Eastern Sierra.
In other Mammoth Airport news, On Wednesday night the Town Council could set in motion the environmental process that would allow United Airlines to start commercial air service to Mammoth.
The plan is to hire a consultant to look into the potential impacts of flying 80 passenger jets from San Francisco to the Mammoth Yosemite Airport. The study is expected to look at issues such as effects of noise from the turbo jets on nearby lands and the national parks. The study and Environmental Assessment is expected to take nine months to complete. The $219,000 cost is expected to be split by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and the Town of Mammoth.