Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nut Tree, Travis Could Factor Into Regional Air Travel

Nut Tree, Travis Could Factor Into Regional Air Travel
By Barry Eberling

Rusty Mayes, owner of Power Aviation Services, works on a Cessna 170 at the Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville. (Chris Jordan/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - Having more corporate jets land at Nut Tree Airport or perhaps even civilian planes use Travis Air Force Base are among a host of ideas to alleviate crowding at major Bay Area airports.

Should the local options being considered by the Regional Airport Planning Committee become a reality in coming decades, Solano County could reap financial benefits, county Supervisor Jim Spering said Monday. He sees the Nut Tree idea as the more likely to happen in the foreseeable future.

Committee members will hold a workshop at 6 p.m. today at the MetroCenter, 101 8th St., Oakland. Spering is the county's representative.

Nut Tree Airport could handle corporate jets that otherwise might go to destinations such as the Oakland or San Francisco international airports. Spering said the county-owned airport would need such things as new hangers and infrastructure to realize its potential.

"But you have an existing airport," Spering said. "I would say with a modest investment, you could accommodate these airplanes. It's not like starting new."

Having more corporate jets land at Nut Tree would not only relieve congestion at other airports, it also would generate tax revenue and perhaps attract more corporations to the county, Spering said.

The largest Nut Tree hangar is already home to corporate jets for Copart, the Fairfield-based firm that sells salvaged autos. Other corporate jets land at the airport. Airport Manager Andrew Swanson estimated Nut Tree averages one or two a day.

"As the (major) airports become busier and busier, it's more economical and efficient for the corporate uses to come into airports like the Nut Tree," Swanson said. "We see a lot more of that."

But jets cannot carry a full load of fuel when taking off on the 4,700-foot-long runway because of its length, Swanson said. Adding 900 feet would change that, allowing jets leaving the airport to fly cross-country without refueling, he added.

Money for improvements could come from federal and regional sources, Spering said. There would also have to be a local commitment, he said.

Another idea that has long been around is having civilian uses along with the military uses at Travis Air Force Base. Another runway would be added.

An advantage at Travis is the airspace isn't congested, a Bay Area airport study stated. Possibilities exist for commercials flights to Southern California, international flights and air cargo, it said.

But the study also found hurdles, among them the cost of constructing terminals and the difficulty of international flights making connections with domestic flights, as happens at such places as San Francisco International Airport.

There's also the challenge of fitting in civilian uses in a way compatible with Travis' mission as a military base.

"The military mission is the highest priority," Spering said.

The committee is considering the Travis idea as a "placeholder," to keep the option open, Spering said. No one knows what will happen in 10 or 20 years, he said.

Another idea is to build a North Bay airport. But the study called the concept "highly problematic" because of such things as high costs, environmental concerns and airline economics. There is no identified site.

"To build a whole new airport I think is completely out of the question," Spering said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646, Ext. 232, or at

At a glance
Who: Regional Airport Planning Committee
What: Workshop
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: MetroCenter, 101 8th St., Oakland

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