Castle Airport took the form of an international welcoming hub recently as dozens of Germans were chartered to and from the site by an aviation tour company that’s decided to take advantage of the former Air Force base.
Charter Air Transport, is the latest business to start using Castle’s facilities. The company had been operating at other airports, but had trouble with them during the summer months because of shorter runways that can’t handle heavy planes during hot weather. Planes would instead land in Fresno and passengers would be bused to their locations.
But Castle’s long runways allow for planes to take off and land year-round, making it an attractive alternative for the charter service. Cheaper fuel services were also a factor.
According to Mark Hendrickson, director of commerce, aviation and economic development for Merced County, as the company continues to use the airport, it could generate more activity. Hendrickson said that the move represents many years of hard work and upgrades to the airport’s infrastructure and affirmed that the charter company could draw more business for Castle and has the potential to open the door for other opportunities.
In its inaugural landing, Charter Air Transport’s twin-engine Brasilia, dropped off about 30 German travelers on their way to visit Yosemite National Park, while another 30 Germans boarded the plane and headed to Utah.
Jim Price, vice president and operations manager for Gemini Flight Support at Castle Airport, said the charter service is an economic boost to his company, mainly through fuel sales. He said they provided the facilities and things that the charter company was looking for. This is the first charter service to locate at Castle.
"While Castle Airport is not currently recognized by the FAA as a commercial airport," said Scott Malta, Castle Airport Manager, "we have everything an airline would want in a facility: a long runway; plenty of ramp space; an operating control tower; on-field ARFF; and a beautiful, new 5,000 square foot airline terminal, we just don’t have a scheduled airline operating here." With somewhere around 15,000 passengers flying through Castle via Charter Air Transport, it could help make the case for attracting an airline to Castle, in any event, the new aviation activity is a very good thing.
The county hopes to see small financial gains through additional fueling fees at Castle and according to Hendrickson sees the upswing of interest at Castle as a promising sign for Merced County.