By Deb Murphy
Staff from Inyo County, the town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area met with Federal Aviation Administration staff in Los Angeles in late March to go over the agency’s assessment of Bishop’s Airport Certification Manual. By all accounts, the ACM was well received.
“We received very favorable and very complimentary feedback on our draft ACM,” Inyo County’s CAO Kevin Carunchio stated in an e-mail.
Conversations with Inyo’s Clint Quilter, public works director, and Dan Holler, Mammoth town manager, turned up few specifics. Details are still being hashed out at the staff level.
“There was nothing extensive,” Quilter said of the FAA’s review of the draft document. Inyo has to do a Wildlife Hazard Assessment. Staff is still working through a timeline which should be figured out within the next four to six weeks.
One timeline assessment put commercial air service in Bishop by this Christmas, but the consensus is more like the end of 2019.
The town of Mammoth has been wading through airport issues for years. From Holler’s perspective Inyo County is just starting. “We had good discussions and are moving forward,” he said in a phone interview. “We have to take the long view. Twenty, 30 years down the line, things change.”
While commercial air service in Inyo County is a bright, new penny, Holler knows first-hand what it takes to mint that penny. The Mammoth/Yosemite Airport’s service has been subsidized through its Tourism Business Improvement District funds, of which Mammoth Mountain contributes 65-percent. The TBID is up for renewal for a 10-year period, beginning September 2018.
Mammoth Resorts President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Brownlie was very PC at a recent Eastern Sierra Council of Government’s airport discussion, speaking in support of “regional air service.” But indications are Mammoth Mountain has thrown its support behind Bishop as the primary commercial airport to serve the region.
Inyo Supervisor Jeff Griffiths was enthusiastic when asked about the ACM review. “It looks good,” he said. Mammoth Mayor John Wentworth was a little more guarded. “We’re working with the Mountain and Inyo staff, exploring the technical reality if Bishop will work,” he said. “We’ve got to get together to make this happen.”
In terms of two distinctly different airports—Mammoth Yosemite and Bishop, Quilter didn’t see any issue of one over the other. “There’s a role for two airports,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to skin that cat. We can’t lose either asset.”