By Mary-Justine Lanyon
January 10, 2011
After working on the project for 10 years, Mark Bayley finally sees his vision of a fully functioning airport becoming a reality.
While the Lake Arrowhead Airport was permitted as a general aviation facility in 2007 and planes have been landing there ever since, Bayley’s focus has been steady over the years. His vision is the airport will not only be a place where “pilots can drop in,” he said, “but also serve as an alternative destination.”
Bayley has long talked about the owners of second homes flying in for a weekend, tourists flying in and staying at the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa. Many of these visitors, he said, are reluctant to spend the hours required to drive to the mountains and would come more often if the amenities-like rental cars, a shuttle to Lake Arrowhead Village and a restaurant-were available.
To help him realize this vision, Bayley has put together a team that now includes Ben Root, who serves as executive vice president and general counsel of Lake Arrowhead Airport Inc., and Keith Whitworth, a CPA and the airport’s vice president of finance.
For the past 10 to 15 years, Root has worked with what he called “development stage companies,” making sure their ideas get put together “in a way that makes sense.” And Whitworth, Root noted, “has spent most of his career developing medium-sized businesses.”
An additional four people will be joining the board of directors, something Bayley hopes will happen in the first quarter of 2011.
These directors, Root said, will serve as the “strategic guide of the corporation. They will be people with significant business experience and a significant interest in the business of the community.”
It is that local tie that both Root and Bayley see as critical and exciting.
“The target,” Root said, “is to raise the necessary financing locally. We will be talking with people with a strong interest in the airport being here, who want to bring upgraded air transportation to the community.”
A newly adopted business plan is a critical part of that outreach into the community. “It’s important,” Root said, “to have a team to support Mark’s vision.” Root said his role is to attend to the details, while Whitworth supports Bayley’s vision with “good financial control.”
With the completion of Phase 1 of the business plan-assembling the team-the three directors are ready to move on to Phase 2. Its two critical components, Root said, are getting the runway paved and lighted, with pilot control, and improving Ash Meadows Road, the access to the airport from the Lake Arrowhead community.
“It’s important to have a paved landing strip,” Bayley said, although he noted that during the recent rains the decomposed granite runway held up well. “It drains well,” he said, “so it doesn’t get muddy. In fact, you couldn’t even tell it had rained by looking at it.”
Phases 3 and 4, which Root and Bayley acknowledged are further down the road, will bring those dreamed-of amenities to the airport. Bayley envisions producing his own wine from the vineyard he plans to plant. He already harvests apples from the historic trees that grow on his 100 acres-called the Lost Ranch-and is also harvesting honey from hives being kept on his property.
“Our view,” Root said, “is that Arrowhead is a very special place. The best way to have an airport that meets the community’s needs is to have it guided by the community.”
To that end, Root is putting together a private placement memorandum-which will include the business plan, a statement of risks and a who’s who on the board-to distribute to potential investors.
“We will be looking for accredited or sophisticated investors,” he said. “We want to make sure the risk profile is appropriate for the people who are shareholders.” That is in fact, he said, required by the Securities Commission. It’s also good management, Root added.
The plan, he noted, is to raise the necessary funds with a blend of equity and bonds. Bayley will retain what Root called a “significant minority share,” with the majority owned by individuals.
Bayley, Root and Whitworth also plan to assemble an advisory board, individuals with an interest in the airport’s success. Many of its members, Root said, may be pilots, but he also plans to invite representatives from the hospitality industry and retail businesses.
“They will be positively affected by the airport’s success,” Root said. Bayley calls this the “secondary impact” of the airport. The increased visitor traffic, he feels, will add jobs at the Resort and other businesses, possibly converting some part-time jobs to full time.
“I think it will be very significant,” Bayley said.
The president of the newly formed corporation claims Lake Arrowhead Airport will be the “first and only general aviation airport in the U.S. to be green.” Bayley plans to install solar panels on the hangars, making the airport self sufficient and self sustaining. He anticipates creating excess power, which will be sent back into the community.
In addition to its own power, the airport will also have its own water. “We won’t draw anything from the Lake Arrowhead system.”
THE AIRPORT IS DISCOVERED
The airport has already been discovered by Celine Dion, whose most recent music video, “Voler,” was filmed there. Bayley’s house was used in the video, which can be viewed on the airport’s website, www.lakearrowheadairport.com.
In the story, a grandfather-portrayed by
Michel Sardou-wants to pass on to his grandson the joys and beauty of flight. The video-and the day-begins over breakfast in Bayley’s kitchen and then moves to the runway where a 1940-era Stearman biplane takes off with the grandfather and his grandson on board.
Dion flew her director in from Paris. He told Bayley he “loved the location as it fit their vision of flying in its pure and natural form.”
And, Bayley says, the airport is being discovered by more and more pilots of small planes. He has received about 75 hangar requests over the past few months. The interest is there, he said, adding he “has faith this is going to work.”
“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Root said, but there are “a lot of details to attend to.
“I believe we’ll be able to deliver an upgraded airport on the site.”