bishop airport woolley

CAPTION

At top, a rainbow graced the landing of the second flight to arrive at the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport near Bishop last Sunday morning. Passengers deplaned to fanfare, including Woolly Mammoth from Mammoth Mountain. Sunday marked the start of regional airport that will provide commercial air service to the entire Eastern Sierra from an airport located in a more temperate climate that Mammoth's airport, which is located at 7,000 feet elevation and subject to extreme winds and delays due to snow and weather.

Bishop's renovated airport will serve region; more reliable during bad weather

If you build a mile of highway, you can drive a mile. If you build a mile of runway, you can access the world.

Such were the sentiments from Mark McClardy, director, FAA, Office of Airports, Western Pacific Region, during a ceremony Sunday at the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport welcoming the start of commercial passenger air service at the facility near Bishop.

While commercial air service had been provided in the past at the Mammoth Yosemite Airport near Mammoth Lakes, the service often was plagued with cancellations due to dangerous weather patterns triggered by the high elevation of the Mammoth airport (think snow) and the erratic cross current winds from the nearby Sierra range.

That has now changed, with the opening of the area’s first truly regional commercial air service airport, the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport, located at a much balmier 4,000 feet elevation. 

Two Canadair Regional Jet 700s landed Sunday at the airport from Denver and San Francisco to mark the start of the service at Eastern Sierra Regional Airport.

John Urdi, executive director for Mammoth Lakes Tourism, also welcomed the crowd of more than 100, saying that the start of commercial air service at the Bishop airport had been the culmination of almost a decade of work to bring consistent and reliable service to the region.

“We’re really trying to make sure that we can satisfy the needs for Eastern Sierra,” Urdi said. “We have such great opportunities here, from Death Valley all the way up into Mono County. And this new airport is going be a great opportunity for us.”

Eric Clark, chief operating officer at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, said Sunday was “a very special day here in the Eastern Sierra.”

“I’ve learned that anything in life worth having comes from patience, belief and hard work,” Clark said. “These flights today are the culmination of years of dedication and collaboration throughout our communities to bring more consistent and reliable air service to the Eastern Sierra.”

Clark said the service also moves the region toward the goal of expanding flight offerings in the future “to continuously benefit our business owners, our guests and our local communities.”

Urdi said as the Eastern Sierra region celebrates Sunday’s initial flights and the work that made them possible, “it is important to understand that this is just one step forward.”

He said that over the next five years, the region looks to grow “enplanements,” the total number of revenue passengers boarding an aircraft, including originations and transfers, from the current roughly 20,000 enplanements to 75,000 enplanements.

“This will provide even more consistency that will allow our communities to access the world from this airport,” Urdi said.

Urdi said the same team responsible for getting the current air service started will be working towards allowing multiple aircraft to service the airport.

He said the team is working to design and create a new terminal that has more efficient ground access and the capability to add multiple airline options.

“The best is yet to come,” Urdi said.

Inyo County Second District Supervisor and board Chairman Jeff Griffiths described how eight years ago members of the Eastern Sierra Council of Governments, which includes representatives from several regional entities, started talking about the commercial air service issue and decided to have a summit on the county line at Rock Creek Lake while on ice skates.

“It seemed crazy that we could actually get everybody together and pull this off, but it worked,” Griffiths said.

McClardy said he put together his FAA “A-Team,” monthly meetings were established that worked through the pandemic, until the final pieces fell in place in September. He said because most of the facilities were in place, the Bishop airport made the most sense, logistically and financially. “It was a very smart business decision for the federal government,” McClardy said. “And as a result, you have access to the world. You have the ability to bring in more markets. You have the ability to do whatever your imagination and your vision chooses to do in the future.”

McClardy said seeing the regional airport come together was “one of the best days of my career.”

“This is America right here,” McClardy said. “Everybody getting together – a strong vision, imagination, perseverance – we got it done.”

Clark said there were many teams that pulled together to make the service a reality, including the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and county staff, the Bishop City Council, the Mono County Board of Supervisors, the Town of Mammoth Lakes and its Town Council and Mammoth Lakes Tourism.

Griffiths and Urdi also gave a special thanks to Ashley Helms, Inyo County deputy Public Works director for airports, saying that Helm’s work has established a legacy “to improve our communities for many years to come.”

As well as those mentioned previously, Griffiths said he also wanted to thank the efforts of former county Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio, former county Chief Administrative Officer and former Public Works Director Clint Quilter, who recently passed away, and current county CAO Leslie Chapman.

Mammoth has been planning for access to the regional airport for years, once the decision was made.

“Upon arrival at either the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop or the Mammoth Yosemite Airport just outside of the Town of Mammoth Lakes, shuttle, taxi and rental car services are readily available to transfer you to town,” the Town said in a recent news release. “Once in town, free transportation via Eastern Sierra Transit Authority allows the stress of driving in the snow to melt away.”

Here are some options: Shuttle: Tickets for a shared transfer shuttle from the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport to Mammoth Lakes will be available for $65 each way ($130 round trip). There is also a variety of transportation options from the Mammoth Yosemite Airport to the town of Mammoth Lakes and returning to MMH. Seats on a shared shuttle can be booked for $35 each way ($70 round trip). Private shuttles are also available from both airports. Advanced reservations are recommended. Go to www.mawshuttle.com to book your shuttle services. 

Taxis: Taxi companies operate throughout the region. Service is limited, so advanced reservations are recommended. 

• Mammoth Taxi: Locally owned and operated since 1994, Mammoth Taxi Sierra Shuttle Services offers local taxi service, airport ground transportation, long distance trailhead shuttles and regional transportation. Call to book at 760-924-2227.

• Sierra Shuttle Service provides transportation to Mammoth Yosemite Airport, offers airport private and shared shuttle service, local taxi service, long distance trailhead shuttles and regional transportation to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and June Mountain Ski Area, as well as local town shuttles and long distance transportation. Call 760-914-2746.

• Mountain Pick Up Taxi; Mammoth Pick Up Taxi offers from both the Mammoth Yosemite Airport and the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop as well as around town taxi services. Call 760-965-6517 

Rental Cars: Rental cars are available via Enterprise/National rental car companies out of both Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop as well as Mammoth Yosemite Airport. Vehicles with AWD, 4WD and snow tires are available. Go to www.Enterprise.com or www.Nationalcar.com to book your rental car. 

Go to VisitMammoth.com for more information about airport transfer services.

With additional reporting by Wendilyn Grasseschi, Mammoth Times Reporter

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