Deplane, deplane

A report has revealed information about where flyers are headed when they leave Chico that surprised even the city’s professional airport manager, Bob Grierson. A “startling” number of Chicoans board planes destined for Portland, making it the third-most-popular market after Los Angeles and San Francisco. Then, there’s Salt Lake City—another shocker—in fourth place, followed by Orlando, Seattle/Tacoma, Houston, Phoenix, Ontario and San Diego.

The city had agreed to spend $15,000 commissioning the Air Market Service Report, which was prepared by Sixel, Boggs & Associates, Inc., of Eugene, Ore. The firm tracked ticket sales and other records to come up with the about-75-page document.

The report noted how many people were headed to where and whether they left from the Chico Municipal Airport or someplace else—usually Sacramento. Seven out of 10 drive the 85 miles to Sac.

All this data will serve as a hook to lure more of the smaller, feeder airlines to better-serve Chico travelers. Before this report, Grierson said, “no one could tell me who went where and with what frequency.” Also, in what Grierson called a “bizarre twist,” it was learned that half of Chico flyers travel for business and half for recreation, while the nationwide statistic is 70-30.

The number of passengers using the Chico Municipal Airport has risen 63.7 percent since 1995, to about 30,000—well above the growth rate for the rest of the country’s airports.

Grierson was blunt on some fronts: “San Francisco is only hope, regretfully,” he said of the delay-plagued hub. United wants its subcontractor, SkyWest, feeding it passengers taking more-expensive flights farther on, not shuttling them to Los Angeles and back. But on the up side, Grierson said, there’s a chance that once Delta sees that so many Chico travelers are headed to its cities, it will assign a little plane to Chico. “The biggest problem I’ve had is nobody’s ever heard of Chico.” The report, he said, should “get us on the radar screen.”

The business community will be presented with the report at a May 11 Eggs & Issues breakfast, with Mark Sixel speaking.Figuring I could use the help, this little guy showed up outside my office window last week and pretty much took to staring at me, unnervingly. Maybe he was trying to give me a story tip (News & Review investigation: “Cars kill squirrels—will the slaughter ever stop?") or a Streetalk question: “Fleas or ticks?”

We all stared back at the squirrel whipping around in the wind for several hours—OK, several minutes—and debated on whether we should call him George W. Bushytail (my personal choice) or Gray Squirrel Davis (the photographer’s pick). Really heady stuff is going on here at the News & Review. Those goldfish at the Enterprise-Record have nothing on us.