Kevin Valine

Modesto News: Modesto hires consultant for passenger flights

A SkyWest plane takes off from the Modesto City-County Airport.
A SkyWest plane takes off from the Modesto City-County Airport. Modesto Bee file

The city has hired a consultant as part of its effort to re-establish commercial passenger flights at Modesto Airport.

And U.S. News & World Report has ranked the Modesto area as the 99th best place to live in the United States among the nation’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas. Ouch! I’ll have more on that after we finish with the airport.

Modesto has hired Texas-based Trillion Aviation to conduct the study to determine the local market for passenger air service. The city is paying Trillion $20,000 for the project, which started last month and should be completed by the end of April or early May, according to Public Works Director Bill Sandhu.

Sandhu said the results will be discussed at a City Council meeting.

The Modesto Airport has not had commercial passenger flights since June 2014, when SkyWest Airlines stopped its daily flights between Modesto and San Francisco, citing “poor performance in the market.” The flights were frequently canceled or delayed because of foggy weather at San Francisco International Airport and for other reasons, making it difficult for Modesto passengers to catch connecting flights.

This is the first time since the 1980s that Modesto has not had commercial passenger service, according to Modesto Bee archives.

Sandhu said restarting the flights is critical for Modesto and the surrounding area.

“It’s important for our city’s growth,” he said, “for the convenience of our travelers, and (it’s) important for business and economic development.”

Modesto officials have said landing flights to Los Angeles is a top goal because Southern California was the top destination for passengers flying out of Modesto. They also have said a study gauging the viability of commercial service is needed in making the case for an airline to come here.

Sandhu said the $20,000 for the study is being paid by annual taxes assessed against aircraft at the airport. The contract between Modesto and Trillion states the consulting firm also would prepare a grant for the airport for $6,000 and meet one-on-one with an airline for $6,000 or meet with airlines at a conference for $6,500. Sandhu said Modesto has not decided whether it will have Trillion perform these additional services.

Trillion Aviation President Dan Benzon did not respond to an email and phone call seeking comment.

Now on to U.S. News & World Report, which has found a niche for itself with its annual rankings in such categories as the nation’s best colleges. On Wednesday, it released its first annual ranking of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas based on such factors as the quality of the schools, crime rate, cost of living and job market.

Denver was ranked as the top metro area in the nation. Among California metro areas, San Francisco was ranked No. 9, San Jose No. 10, San Diego No. 16, Santa Rosa No. 62 and Los Angeles No. 83.

For Central Valley metro areas, Sacramento was ranked No. 68, Bakersfield No. 95, Fresno No. 97, Stockton No. 98 and Modesto No. 99. San Juan, Puerto Rico, was ranked No. 100.

Readers need to pause before bemoaning how Modesto has once again found itself at the bottom of a list where it would rather be at the top. Yes, Modesto has many problems. But it also has lots of community-minded volunteers, great weather, and is close to lots of great attractions like the beach and Yosemite.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316