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Monday, December 13, 2004

Air Alarcon?

Scenic Air
Mayoral Candidate Richard Alcaron is introducing a bill this week to create a countywide authority to create a new international aiport in North Los Angeles County in order to relieve congestion at LAX. The Daily News reports that Alarcon states this could include an expansion of the current airport in Palmdale owned by the City of Los Angeles (my idea by the way when I was Mayor) . Alarcon's feeling is that other regional airports such as Burbank, John Wayne, Long Beach and Ontario are not sufficient enough to carry the ever expanding air traffic in Southern California.

The airport in Palmdale was purchased by the city during my administration in1971 and saw on again and off again traffic, however it has been shuttered since 1998. Recent efforts to revive use of the airport include the development of a new airline "Air Palmdale" by Westchester area businessman and anti-LAX expansion activist, Robert Acherman, and the coming this month of regional service to Las Vegas by tour operator Scenic Airlines.

When you consider that the City already owns much of the land in Palmdale and has the facilities necessary - the option of Palmdale makes so much more sense than LAX expansion. To top it off, the residents in Palmdale are looking to the airport to service them and provide much needed economic development. Of the $11 billion to spent on LAX, you could build out Palmdale, build a rail line from there to LAX and still have a good chunk of change left over.

But lets not leave it politicians to do what makes sense. That plan doesn't compensate the unions and the special interests as well as Hahn's $11 billion boondoggle.


Blogger Robert Acherman said:

Dear Mayor Sam,
Thank you for mentioning my Air Palmdale venture on your website. It was through your visionary leadership that 17,000 acres were acquired in the Antelope Valley to build a future Palmdale Intercontinental Airport. When the U.S. Senate killed the commercial SST program in 1971, it hurt Palmdale’s chances to serve as a supersonic jet port. Nonetheless, the City of Los Angeles now has the land to build the most modern airport in the world.

It has been two years since I have completed the Air Palmdale business plan and I am still trying to raise money to get Air Palmdale off of the ground. Now I understand why it took David Neeleman, founder of jetBlue Airways, three years to get his airline airborne! I am still committed to making Air Palmdale a reality.

Air Palmdale wants to do for Palmdale Airport what jetBlue has done for Long Beach Airport- bring in safe, high quality, low-cost air service and fly people to places they want to go to at fares that they can afford to pay; places like Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sacramento, Phoenix and Dallas. And on jet powered aircraft such as the Canadair Regional Jet or the Boeing 717.

I want to clarify one comment. My business plan is not tied to my opposition to Mayor Hahn’s “Alternative D- Enhanced Safety and Security Plan” to the LAX Master Plan. They are two separate, but closely related issues.

I have been a big believer in Palmdale Airport for over 20 years. In the late 1960’s, L.A. Department of Airports officials promised Westchester/ Playa del Rey residents (home of LAX), that future airport expansion would occur in Palmdale. By moving forward on LAX Master Plan Alternative D, City officials are going back on that promise to build out Palmdale. Fortunately, Mayor Hahn did keep one of his campaign promises to begin new master plans for Ontario International Airport (ONT) and Palmdale Regional Airport (PMD). The public hearing on the “scooping” for the ONT environmental impact statement/report was held in August 2004. Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the new name for L.A. Department of Airports, was even brave enough to put on a presentation for the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey on LAWA’s plans for Ontario and Palmdale. The community warmly received the presentations. The LAX Master Plan, on the other hand, is almost universally hated in the community, save for a few chamber types who want to curry favor with the Mayor for reasons known only to them. I will save comments about the fatally flawed LAX Master Plan for another entry.

The reasons why I started Air Palmdale are two-fold. First, I have had a lifelong dream to start my own airline. Second, I have found that complaining about a lack of air service in Palmdale will not attract airlines. There are those who read history, those who write history and those who make history. And then there are those who see problems, those who create problems and those that solve problems. In both cases, I wanted the last category of making history by solving the air service drought at PMD.

Airlines are lazy when it comes to starting new routes to new or underserved markets. They want someone else to take the chance and prove viability of the market so that they swoop in later to capture market share. In addition, airlines do not like to serve more than one airport in a metropolitan area because of the additional overhead costs of airport staff. There are exceptions to the one airport per city rule, notably New York City (Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark), Washington, DC (Dulles, National, Baltimore), South Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach) and the San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco International, Oakland, San Jose). In Southern California, we have some airlines serving all five area airports: Orange County/John Wayne, Ontario, Long Beach, LAX, and Burbank. It is hard to convince these airlines that they will need to open a sixth station in Palmdale to serve the Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita Valley market. The airlines argue that they already serve the Palmdale airport market passengers at Burbank and LAX. The sad reality is that some Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita residents spend up to three hours to drive to LAX- perhaps spending more time on the road than actually flying to their final destination. And there is little doubt that part of our freeway congestion problem is caused by air travelers having to drive half way across the county to get to LAX. If air service with good destinations and reasonable ticket prices are available at Palmdale Airport, then we could see a reduction of 250,000 cars a year driving down the hill from Antelope Valley to LAX!

One common misstatement made about Palmdale Airport to LAX area residents is that LAX area residents will not drive up to Palmdale Airport for a flight. It is a ridiculous statement! There will be plenty of flights out of LAX for LAX area residents; Palmdale Airport is to serve the Palmdale market!

Other fallacies spread about Palmdale Airport are that it is too hot and too high in elevation for aircraft to operate there, that it’s too far away, and my favorite from Mayor Riordan: the environmentalists are against it. The facts are quite the opposite. Palmdale is just south of Edwards Air Force Base where all new commercial aircraft are tested for certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The certification tests include maximum takeoff weight (MTOW). Edwards AFB is home to the NASA Flight Test Center and is the second largest Air Force Base in the United States. Palmdale’s two 12,000-foot runways at Air Force Plant 42 are used for military and commercial touch and go testing. These runways can accommodate Boeing 747-400’s and the soon to be produced 555 seat Airbus A380. The Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star jet was built at Palmdale Airport as were the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes, the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the F-117 stealth fighter, the Space Shuttles, and the newest unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s). Part of the Joint Strike Fighter will also be built at Palmdale Airport. Palmdale’s elevation is 2,500 feet above sea level, half the elevation of the mile high (5,280 feet) city's Denver International Airport. Palmdale is not far away. The Antelope Valley has a population of about 450,000 people and the Santa Clarita Valley has a population of about 150,000. With a population of over 600,000, the Palmdale Airport market has twice the critical population mass to support jet service (reference Bombardier Commercial Aircraft). With double digit population and economic growth rates, adding air service to the Palmdale Airport market will be like putting a turbo charger on the local economy. San Fernando Valley residents will also be attracted to Palmdale Airport- although a long drive in mileage, they will save time and aggreviation in driving to LAX. And Palmdale has over 350 free parking spaces top choose from!

Environmentalists have been fairly quiet about Palmdale Airport, however, the Lahotan Water District Board very recently has made an issue of the effluent (secondary treated waste water) dumped on the City of L.A. owned land next to the existing Air Force Plant 42/Palmdale Airport. The effluent was forming a plume and going into the water table.

And then there is the most critical issue of community support- people living in the Antelope Valley want an airport and they want air service; quite a contrast from homeowners in Lake Forest who live near the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station!

Air Palmdale’s success will be its ability to cater to the needs of the Palmdale Airport market of the Antelope Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley. Air Palmdale will build customer loyalty not only through low costs and low fares, but also by being the “hometown airline”- being connected to the community.

If you have questions on Air Palmdale, please feel free to contact me via email at robert.acherman@airpalmdale.com

December 14, 2004 1:32 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Palmdale, Palmdale, Palmdale. WAKE UP people. No one is going to use an airport out there. No one is going to use a rail to get there. You do realize that there is a rail to LAX but no one uses it.

Why should the city of LA invest $11 billion into the city of PALMDALE?

LAX is one of the most antiquated airports in the world. If you have ever traveled internationally, you can see the difference in airports even before you get close to the terminals. Even other airports in this country are much better.

Take O'Hare-undoubtedly the busiest airport in the country. The FAA mandated that United and American cut their flights to improve delays, which it has. But if you have ever driven into O"hare, you are shocked at the ease of finding the terminal, parking or picking up/ dropping off. Unlike the traffic boondoggle that is the LAX horsehoe. IT NEEDS TO BE FIXED.

December 14, 2004 7:06 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Uh, the Palmdale market is larger than many major airline markets out there. Who is going to use it? All the people who have moved to Palmdale, Lancaster, Santa Clarita, etc. etc.

Who would take a train there? Well if you lived in the Valley and it was cheaper to fly out of Palmdale than Burbank - you could park your car at a park and ride lot in Van Nuys and take a train that will get you to the airport in less time than driving to LAX - and with more convenience.

Why spend $11 billion in Palmdale? You wouldn't. You could build out the airport AND the rail line for about half of that.

I didn't know there was a train to LAX. There is a rail line that goes from a) Nowhere to b) Nowhere that has a bus connection from b) Nowhere to c) somewhere near LAX.

December 14, 2004 1:34 PM  

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