County to launch in-house airport department

The entrance to Minden-Tahoe Airport.

The entrance to Minden-Tahoe Airport.

After 13 years, Douglas County commissioners approved a nearly $400,000 plan to bring management of Minden-Tahoe Airport back in house.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on Thursday to form a new Douglas County Airport Division and hire five new full-time employees, including an airport manager, airport operations specialist and an office assistant.

The plan was developed after the Airport Advisory Committee rejected a consultant for the second time in October.

The last county employee to manage the airport left after not quite two years in 2010. At the time, contractor Bobbie Thompson was brought in to operate the airport. A short time later management company ABS, which employed Thompson, contracted with the county for services.

Airport advisers recommended that the county create a new department that would be under the Douglas County Public Works Department.

Longtime soaring advocate Linda Mae Hivert said whoever the county hires as manager must be familiar with safe operations, planning and future development.

Hivert founded one of the first soaring companies at the airport and has participated in it for 40 years. She acknowledged that the conflict between the soaring and power communities has subsided.

She urged the revision of the airport master plan during public comment on Thursday morning.

“The board needs an inclusive manager,” she said.

Resident Jim Jackson said he felt that the airport advisory committee was correct in seeking to bring management of the airport in house.

Airport Advisory Committee Vice Chairman AJ Ursic said that recently retired Nevada State Aviation Manager Kirk Haukohl has expressed interest in the airport.

The airport was built early during World War II in case the Japanese invaded the West Coast.

That didn’t happen, but the airport had a flight school during the war. After the war, it was deeded to Douglas County, and in 1950 actually housed a commercial airline called Bonanza Air which served Carson City and Minden.

But it was soaring that put the airport on the map, according to Hivert, who has been writing a column for The Record-Courier detailing its history.

Home to the Sierra Wave, a condition that provides loft when west winds blow over the Sierra and then bounce off the Valley floor, soaring pilots would gather every spring at Minden for wave camps.

The airport is the home of the Minden Soaring Club Cowboys which won its fourth online world championship. The club is coached by Minden resident and Perlan Chief Pilot Jim Payne, who is returning to the Valley after a winter in Argentina in pursuit of a world altitude record attempt.


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