The Sutter County Airport has struggled to make ends meet in recent years, but a new management group hopes to turn that around, while bringing an interest in general aviation back to the public.
The Sutter Buttes Regional Aviation Association, a local group of pilots and aviation advocates, assumed control of the airport from Sutter County on July 1.
Under county management, the expenses of maintaining the airport outpaced its fairly flat revenue stream from hangar rental fees and charges to the four businesses on the airport grounds, said Steven Whitmore, treasurer for the aviation association. He also alluded to some possibly questionable management activity while under control of the Sutter County Public Works Department.
But Whitmore and association President Joe Borzelleri were quick to point out that Megan Greve, general services director for Sutter County, has been a critical and supportive player in the management transition.
Newly under the auspices of the association, much of labor that the county was required to bill to the airport’s budget will be supplied by volunteers, Whitmore said.
The cost savings will help the association realize its goals to increase community outreach and possibly bring in new flight training and aircraft rental programs, Whitmore said.
The association could also bring back fly-over rides, where people could pay to fly over some of the region’s sites, such as the Sutter Buttes, Oroville Dam and Feather Falls.
In light of the past struggles of the airport, Whitmore said that many members of the association feel that by taking over airport operations, they are saving the facility.
“We all felt that the airport was on the chopping block at certain points in the past,” Whitmore said. “We’re all excited to take ownership of the airport.”
Sutter County Supervisor Stan Cleveland said the change in airport management removed a layer of bureaucracy and will result in more community contact with the airport.
“They have a vested interest in the growth of commercial and aviation-oriented development,” Cleveland said.
Whitmore said the association plans to hold monthly events at the airport to educate the community about aviation.
The association also hopes that the old county animal shelter property will be deeded over to the airport to house future growth.
“We’re well on our way, but we continue to need the help of enthusiastic pilots, aircraft owners and friends of the airport,” Borzelleri said.
“We’re not looking for money, although donations are always welcome, but we’re looking for volunteers, people who love aircrafts and airports and love to fly.”