While cars and trains are no unique site in Turlock, locals may be surprised to know that Turlock also has its own functioning airport. President of the Turlock Regional Aviation Association Todd Smith took time to answer questions about the airport which plays host to private flights, nonprofit events, sheep grazing and more.
Q: Many community members may be unaware that Turlock has an airport. Where is it located and how long has it been an active site?
A: The Turlock Municipal Airport is located approximately 9 miles east of the city along East Avenue at Newport Road. From 1942 to 1945 it was an Army Air Training Base injunction with the Castle Air Force Base where the student pilots were housed. In July 1947, the airport property was deeded to City of Turlock.
Q: Who can use the airport? Do commercial or private flights land there?
A: The airport is mainly used by private pilots. When you use the term commercial, you can be referring to a commercial rated pilot that allows him/her to fly for hire, which the answer is yes, they do use the airport to drop off their passengers and either remain at the airport until they return or leave and return at a later date to pick them up. There are however no scheduled commercial flights at the airport.
he airport has also been used by a number of air ambulance service companies as well.
Q: How is the airport funded?
A: The airport receives its revenue from a number of sources, with a majority coming from the rental of tie down spaces and hangar rentals. There is also some revenue generated through the one Fixed Based Operator on the field. A Fixed Base Operator (FBO), is an entity providing services such as aircraft rental, flight training and aircraft maintenance. In some cases they also manage the fuel operation. It is important to note that there are no General Fund dollars used by the City to support the airport.
The airport also receives funds from Cal Trans Department of Aeronautics for general maintenance and upkeep of the airport.
In regards to any capital improvements as defined within the approved Airport Layout Plan (ALP) (similar to a municipality’s General Plan), grant funding is made available through the Federal Aviation Administration. At the present time, the TRAA and the City are in the process of updating the ALP and once completed and approval, will be applying for federal grants for improvements to the existing runway and supporting infrastructure including runway lighting.
Q: What programs are either hosted by the airport or take place there?
A: The Young Eagles event is probably the most noteworthy. The program promotes aviation by providing free flights to children between the age of 7 and 17. The TRAA in conjunction with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department have sponsored three events, which are usually in the fall, and to date have provided the experience of flight to approximately 425 children from the surrounding area.
Q: What would citizens of Turlock be surprised to know about the airport?
A: As is the case at many small airports, Fixed Base Operators (aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance sand fuel sales) will have what is called a courtesy car for individuals flying into the airport who need transportation for business purposes or to visit family. It has always been a bit sporadic in getting rental car companies to come out to the airport so this service is very much appreciated by the pilots.
The site used to be 640 acres in size when it was a military flight training facility. At that time, the airport consisted of multiple parallel runways to accommodate student pilots who were housed at Castle Air Force Base. Subsequently, half of the property was sold and today the airport encompasses approximately 320 acres.
Q: What is the future direction of the Turlock Municipal Airport?
A: The key for the Turlock Airport and all small municipal airports around the country is self-sustainability. The Turlock Airport in particular is and has been self-sustaining through the efforts of its Board and the Association’s members. Recently, the airport took control of a 12-acre piece of property that was under a long term lease. The airport has identified the site as an ideal storage facility for non-aviation uses, which will aid in the airport’s long term financial viability.
The airport also has over 150 acres of open land that is currently be used for sheep grazing. This operation has proven to be very effective in controlling vegetative growth at the airport along with providing wild land fire protection and significant reduction in weed control costs. The TRAA is currently exploring a number of long term agricultural uses at the airport to further insure financial viability.
The future looks very bright for the airport. With the TRAA and the City’s continued efforts, it will continue to be an asset that the community can be proud of.