LIVERMORE — The Airport Commission voted unanimously this week to support KaiserAir’s development proposal that would put six corporate aircraft in the skies over Livermore, with talk of additional planes down the road.
The Feb. 8 decision — made by members Adam Bertsch, Darin Bishop, Greg Chabrier, Christopher Dombrowski and Jon Lavine — to add Boeing 737s and other aircraft to the Livermore Municipal Airport (LVK) followed a proposal put before the commission by Airport Manager David Decoteau.
In the proposal, aviation company KaiserAir requested to proceed with development on a vacant parcel at LVK. The approximately 45-acre parcel is located north of West Jack London Boulevard and south of Taxiway Lima.
Decoteau confirmed that KaiserAir will operate as a full service Fixed Based Operator (FBO) providing a terminal, fuel, charter and aircraft maintenance, which together involve about 35 jobs.
“There will be no traditional commercial passenger service provided by
KaiserAir,” he said.
KaiserAir operates VIP charters for corporations, athletic teams and other large groups.
KaiserAir’s charter service clients have included the San Jose Sharks NHL team, Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones, and U2. One of its 737s was the flagship airplane for President Joe Biden and his campaign staff in the weeks before he was sworn in. It flew then Biden and his family to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Inauguration Day.
Decoteau further stated that KaiserAir estimates two aircraft would conduct two landings and two takeoffs per week.
KaiserAir proposed a phased development of the parcel that would include a FBO terminal complex, offices, aircraft maintenance facilities, fuel farm, self-service aircraft fueling facility, corporate hangars, parking spaces and box/t-hangars. The proposed development will provide enhanced aeronautical services at the airport and generate revenues to the Airport Enterprise Fund. The development will house their corporate offices for 30-40 employees and provide space for six KaiserAir corporate aircraft.
Part of KaiserAir's proposal also included a subsequent development plan that could include the construction of additional corporate and t-hangars. These other projects would be brought back to the Airport Commission for review prior to construction.
Pleasanton resident Joe Mattison uses the Livermore airport as a pilot and flight instructor.
“I am a big supporter of the airport. I feel like the airport itself has been good for the community and a lot of businesses, attracting corporations to set up shop in the Tri-Valley area, because that brings jobs and tax revenue,” Mattison said. “But something as big as Kaiser with these 737s, I don’t think that’s the direction that I want the airport to go.”
He expressed concerns about noise and flight schedules, noting the size and scope of the Livermore airport to be perfect at present. As a former San Jose resident, he said he was well aware of how large airplanes flying overhead can impact a city. And as a Pleasanton resident whose home is near the airport, he was additionally concerned that the choices of the Livermore officials would impact others in the Tri-Valley.
“I think the airport is a great thing for the community, but I don’t want it to outgrow itself,” he said.
KaiserAir currently operates an airline with three 737s based at the Oakland International Airport where it runs weekly flights to Hawaii. It is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a regularly scheduled air carrier under what is known as a Part 121 Certificate. The company operates three 737s, and two business jets — a Cessna Citation 525 and a Gulfstream IV, according to FAA records.
Rob Guerra, KaiserAir’s senior vice president and chief pilot, said the flights to Kona, Hawaii would continue to operate out of Oakland.
Guerra, a Pleasanton resident, who grew up in the Tri-Valley and raised his own family here, learned to fly at the Livermore airport. He leases a small hangar at the city-owned airport for his personal airplane. He noted the company’s plan would build additional medium sized hangars in the early phases, which recognizes a current need at the airport, where hangar space is hard to come by. Current wait lists for box hangars can be as long as 10 years or more. The proposed development also fits within Livermore’s long-term plans for the airfield.
While he recognizes concern over the potential for increased noise, Guerra said the 737s in KaiserAir’s fleet are operated below the FAA’s modern Stage 4 noise standards, which are considerably quieter than previous generation jets that once frequented the airport and more stringent than current federal standards for business jets.
“Big airplanes don’t have to be noisy,” he said.
The company intends to adhere to Livermore’s Voluntary Restraint from Night Flying Policy, Guerra said. The operative word in that policy is “voluntary,” however, as federal law prohibits the city from restricting or regulating airport access to any kind, type or class of aircraft that can safely use the airport.
In its operations in and out of San Jose, including numerous after-hours landings, KaiserAir received no noise violations or complaints, and did not set off any noise monitors during the last two years, Guerra said. San Jose International Airport has stringent noise-based curfew. KaiserAir’s 737-500 can only operate during curfew if it can operate below 89 decibels. Guerra said his company equipped the jet with costly specialized equipment to reduce the noise it generates well below that threshold.
Before submitting the airport development proposal for the Livermore airport, Guerra said fully loaded 737s flew into Livermore and were tested for noise under deliberately louder than normal conditions. No noise complaints were received, according to Decoteau.
Decibel readings were taken east and west of the airport in residential areas; both readings were in the low 80s, which is comparable to the noise level of current operations, Decoteau said.
KaiserAir's proposed business/development plan, which includes an estimated $15 million to $18 million investment, involves relocation of the company’s corporate offices from Oakland International Airport, along with basing some of their existing corporate fleet at LVK. KaiserAir proposes to bring in its existing customer base built on 74 years of service in the industry. The company currently has two FBO locations — one at Oakland International Airport and the other at Sonoma County Airport. KaiserAir sells approximately 4 million gallons of aviation fuel on an annual basis from these two locations.
Based upon revenue projections, the ground lease would net the Airport Enterprise Fund approximately $286,944 per year. Over the term of a 45-year lease (35-years with two five-year options), an estimated net revenue of $12,912,480 is anticipated. In addition, fuel flowage fees — a charge for every gallon of fuel pumped — would result in over $100,000 additional revenue to the airport fund per year. The development would also increase enterprise fund revenues further through landing fees. The additional revenue would be used to enhance and improve airport facilities.
KaiserAir must comply with LVK's Minimum Standards for FBOs and will conform with applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) legal requirements related to the development and operation of the facility. Additionally, the project is subject to required state and federal environmental compliance review, clearance and approval. An update of the Airport Layout Plan is also required.
The City of Livermore Community Development Department and Planning Commission will review the project prior to a vote by the City Council.
The next Livermore Airport Commission meeting is set for Monday, March 15, at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit the Commission’s city webpage at http://bit.ly/Indy_AirportCommission.