by Lorie Lewis Ham
Many people are unaware Reedley has an airport, or know very little about it. “I’m not familiar with it at all,” said resident Jennifer Quiring. However, for those who love to fly, the Reedley Municipal Airport is an important place with the potential to be significant for the economic future of Reedley.
“It makes Reedley that much more accessible to businesses, hobbyists and aviation enthusiasts,” said Reedley City Manager Rocky Rogers.
“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that the Reedley Airport averages approximately 1375 departures per month,” stated Airport Planner Justin Ritter. There are currently 55 aircrafts based there.
Reedley resident Tara Wilson fondly remembers flying out of the airport on a friend’s plane. “A friend of ours owned a plane, and took us on a short flight. It was so much fun to be able to fly above familiar territory. Seeing our house was particularly fun! I think it’s neat that we have an airport so close. I enjoy watching planes fly over on their way to land.”The Reedley Municipal Airport is located four miles north of Reedley on North Frankwood, just past Great Western School. Over the last few years, the City has made many repairs and improvements in the hopes of bringing more people to the airport. “The more technological advances we make, the more appealing it will be for the pilots,” said Denise Phariss, Reedley Community Services Administrative Assistant.
Improvements have included new hangars, widening the runway, widening the taxiway — which is the current project and will be done in phases so as not interrupt air traffic — and an Automated Weather Observation Station (AWOS III). The AWOS III system allows people to have up-to-date access to weather conditions in Reedley either via radio frequency 120.175, on the internet or from phone line 559-637-9453. Denise stated that this has proven very helpful to pilots flying into Reedley as they are now able to know the weather before they leave, thus being able to wait for the best conditions. “You know how pocketed our fog is, so this way they can find out any time.”
The Reedley Airport Commission has also been involved in improvements that make the airport more people- and family-friendly, such as developing a park that can be used for picnics, parties, etc. The park is located on the south side of the terminal. The Commission is an advisory board to the City Council on all matters relating to the Reedley Municipal Airport. The meetings are monthly, on the third Thursday of the month at the Reedley Community Center, and open to the public.
Money for the park was raised over time by the Airport Commission, but they kept facing roadblocks. “Up stepped Fred Neal,” said Ray Remy, who has been on the Commission since 1994. “Being in construction and without work, Fred started organizing volunteers and mapping out the project.” The area has now been cleared, an irrigation system installed, grass and trees planted, and more trees are to be planted this winter. It is also surrounded by a nice fence for safety. “One can see the makings of a beautiful park area.”This area can be utilized for future Airport BBQs (the Commission puts one on every year as a fundraiser), a gathering place for pilots, camping for transient pilots, and a great spot to go out to on a Saturday morning and watch the pilots practice. The Commission is looking to rebuild some of the picnic benches and is in search of a BBQ or two. “I’m hoping, now that the park is established, service organizations will step up and place their mark on the Reedley Airport… an observation deck, BBQ facilities, showers/restroom facilities, etc.,” said Ray.
Ray comes from a family with a history of flying. His grandfather owned the Reedley Airport, called Great Western Airport at the time, until selling it to the City in the 1970s. “As long as I can remember, our family had an airplane.” He himself has been flying for 17 years and feels that being on the Commission is his way of continuing the family tradition. Something that has been high on the Commission’s want list for some time is for the FAA to establish a bad weather Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) approach into the Reedley Airport. The AWOS III system is a step in that direction.
“Community Services Director Joel Glick became airport manager around October of 2009,” stated Denise. It had been under Community Services, then moved to Public Works for a time, then to the City Engineering department, and now back again to Community Services. “We are happy to have it back. Joel and I have always loved it. They are the nicest people you will ever meet out there and we kind of missed working with them.” Denise shared, as an example of their kindness, that people at the airport have often given visiting pilots rides into town since there is no shuttle service.
The Airport continues to improve as funds allow and the goal is to provide a home for additional businesses in the near future. According to Denise, the Airport Master Plan includes zoning for restaurants and other businesses. “It would be a destination spot and it could be a really good one because it could also be a stopping off point to go up to the mountains or explore this area.”
For more information about the Reedley Airport, visit its website or contact Denise at 559-637-4203.