PALMDALE — The oft-heralded return of commercial passenger air service to Palmdale may come to fruition in the next few years as city officials are engaged in promising discussions.
“We’ve never been closer,” Assistant City Manager J.J. Murphy said.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved contracts with two consulting firms that are aiding the city in its efforts to establish air service.
The $45,000 contract with Airplanners is the second with the firm that specializes in dealing with airlines, Murphy said.
Also approved was a $99,216 contract with Jviation, Inc., for the second phase of the airport feasibility study.
The city also has an airport-specific attorney under contract.
City officials are looking for a public-private partnership to develop the airport in the next two to three years. Attracting the private investment is part of the next step in the work with the city’s consultants, City Manager James Purtee said.
“The city of Palmdale is getting talked about in airport circles,” Murphy said. “We are this close to being the next commercial airport development in the public-private partnerships.”
Also included in that partnership is the Air Force, as the airport will use the runways at Air Force Plant 42.
The biggest change for the airport plans this time around is that a new terminal will be built on part of a 600-acre parcel of city-owned land at Columbia Way (Avenue M) and Sierra Highway, with access to the Plant 42 runways.
Having the airport facility on city property, outside the Plant 42 security perimeter, is a major factor in making the commercial project viable, officials said.
“We’ve been down similar paths before,” Councilman Richard Loa said. “I think one of the things that makes this very different is the fact that we control the land.”
“This is great economic engine if this is brought to us,” Loa said. “It works hand-in-hand with the fact that we’ve got these major aerospace contracts, defense contractors, right here at Plant 42.”
The aerospace contractors have need for flights to and from sister sites in Fort Worth, Florida and Seattle.
Mayor Pro Tem Austin Bishop noted the region has been limited by its ability to move people and goods by air, and that commercial service “opens up a world of opportunity of economic development.”
“We need to be united as a region,” Murphy said. “This will be a true benefit for the Aerospace Valley.”
The last commercial passenger service from Palmdale, United Airlines’ service to San Francisco, ended in December 2008 after 18 months.
The airline, which received $2 million in subsidies from Los Angeles World Airports, the city of Los Angeles’ airports department, cited too few passengers to make the service viable.
In 2013, Palmdale took control over the terminal from Los Angeles World Airports, which had controlled the site since 1968.
The former terminal, north of Avenue P off 20th Street East, is on land leased from the Air Force, which allowed airliners to use Air Force Plant 42 runways.
Today, it is used to house the Aircraft Fabrication and Assembly Rapid Training Program offered by Antelope Valley College. Students in the program earn college credit toward a certificate and are trained for a career in the aerospace or other local manufacturing industries.