From the 12.12.12 edition.
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By Jack Durham
A proposal to change the name of the airport in McKinleyville and the status of ongoing efforts to attract another airline will be discussed Wednesday, Dec. 12 by the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors.
Don Ehnebuscke of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission is scheduled to give a presentation on the airport issue at the MCSD board’s regular monthly meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at Azalea hall, 1620 Pickett Road.
Over the years, McKinleyville residents have griped about the name of the local airport – Arcata-Eureka Airport. Why, they’ve asked, can’t it be called the McKinleyville Airport, being that it’s in McKinleyville? That issue has never evolved beyond the level of grumbling.
But now there’s an effort to give the airport a name that will encourage tourists to fly to Humboldt County, thereby boosting the economy and possibly lowering airline ticket prices due to the increased flights.
The RREDC is proposing that the airport be renamed the Redwood Coast Regional Airport.
“Airport names can be effective tools to encourage travel to particular destinations,” stated a report provided to the MCSD by RREDC. “While travelers may know the name of the National Park, attraction, or larger region they are interested in traveling to, they often are not familiar with the small towns near those destinations. Hard as it is for us to believe, a lot of people who would like to visit the redwoods have never heard of Arcata, Eureka, or even Humboldt County. And entities like the Convention & Visitors Bureau have been promoting our area as the ‘Redwood Coast’ for years, so the proposed new name is a natural choice.”
In an effort to attract more visitors, other airports have changed their names, including Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD) formerly Cody Airport; Glacier Park International Airport (GPI) formerly Flathead County Airport; Coastal Carolina Regional Airport (EWN) formerly Craven County Regional Airport; Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport formerly Gallatin Field Airport; and Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) formerly Fresno Air Terminal.
According to RREDC, changing the three-letter airport code – in this case ACV – is a difficult process that requires approval of the Federal Aviation Administration.
But just changing the local airport’s name only requires approval by the county Board of Supervisors.
“There does not need to be a connection between the name of the airport and the airport code,” according to RREDC.
RREDC is located in the Prosperity Center at 520 E Street, Eureka or can be reached at email@example.com or (707) 445-9651.
Attracting another airline
The RREDC representatives are also scheduled to give the MCSD board a report on efforts to attract a new airline to the airport, which is now served by a single carrier – United Airlines.
RREDC has created an Air Service Development fund, with the goal of attracting another airline to McKinleyville. RREDC would offer a new airline a minimum revenue guarantee for each flight. The money for the airline would come out the fund.
Last week, RREDC announced that it had reached its fundraising goal of $1 million. RREDC hopes to use the money to bring another air carrier to Humboldt County in the coming year.
“We all recognize that air service is a crucial link to the world for Humboldt County, just like the Internet and US101” stated Don Ehnebuske, Executive Director of RREDC, in a press release. “But like many people, we questioned why the community should raise funds to attract an airline to the area. After all, isn’t it their business to provide air service? However, when we started looking into it, we came to understand the huge payback for everyone in Humboldt County.”
The release continues “Ticket prices shot up when Horizon ceased flights from ACV leaving only one airline serving the area, and passengers began driving to other airports to take flights. Average one way ticket prices to Los Angeles are now about $100 over the competitive fares of two years ago, costing the tens of thousands of passengers flying to LA millions of dollars a year. And there are about 50,000 fewer passengers flying from the airport every year, which dramatically reduces FAA construction funding available for local contractors and suppliers. The total loss to the community is at least $5,000,000 per year by the most conservative estimates.”
“The $1,000,000 raised came from the Department of Transportation, the Headwaters Fund, and from over 70 local donors – businesses, tribes, individuals, and local governments. The total local contribution was $250,000. That translates to at least $40 in reduced prices and construction jobs for every $1 invested by the community over the two year agreement with a new airline,”states the press release.
No financial support from MCSD
MCSD staff is recommending that the board listen to the RREDC presentation, but not provide any funding for the effort.
McKinleyville is an unincorporated community, and the district has limited powers. It can pay for sewer, water, streetlights, landscaping, parks and recreation, libraries and drainage. But it has no authority to use its funds to support air service.