NATA’s General Aviation advancing America initiative highlights Regional Airports in Elko and Bakersfield


Washington, DC – Recently, the National Air Transportation Association’s (NATA) Chairman Curt Castagna joined President and CEO Tim Obitts and Senior Vice President Ryan Waguespack in visiting regional airports in Bakersfield, California and Elko, Nevada as part of the Association’s “General Aviation Advancing America” initiative.

“General Aviation Advancing America is consistent with NATA’s vision for collaboration between airport sponsors, aviation businesses, and communities. NATA’s Board has prioritised initiatives to highlight the immense value of general aviation in serving communities across the country – many of which would be devastated by the loss of commercial air service. General aviation businesses in these areas have, and will continue to play a key role in the nation, preserving jobs and delivering medical, fire, and agricultural support to their communities, as well as a host of other valuable services to a broad range of industries that rely primarily on them and the airport for support,” stated NATA Board Chair Curt Castagna.

On August 19, NATA’s leadership was welcomed to Loyd’s Aviation at Meadows Field Airport (BFL) in Bakersfield, California. BFL serves more than 1.4 million people in or near the Southern San Joaquin Valley. A NATA-supported PricewaterhouseCoopers study, Contribution of General Aviation to the US Economy in 2018, notes that general aviation across California supports an economic impact of more than $32.7 billion, more than 148,000 jobs, and over $11.3 billion in labor income.

“In Bakersfield, we heard positive news of a consistent uptick in flight activity, however, we also heard international training is all but decimated. We were pleased to experience first-hand the engagement of Mayor Goh and other local community stakeholders, as they really understand the airport’s value and will be instrumental in working as partners in continuing to promote its value and contribute to its success as BFL navigates through the impact of COVID-19 and beyond,” stated NATA Senior Vice President Ryan Waguespack.

Ryan Crowl, Bakersfield host and President of Loyd’s Aviation, noted the effectiveness of the Association’s efforts. “I thank NATA, and Tim and Ryan for including Bakersfield in the GA Advancing America tour. NATA’s support for our business has been incredible, especially in 2020. Last week, we were able to reinforce local relationships, and hopefully begin forming some new ones.”

On August 20, the leaders visited aviation and community stakeholders at Elko Regional airport (KEKO). KEKO supports $1.83 million in economic impact, according to a Elko Regional Airport Master Plan from 2016. The same PricewaterhouseCoopers study referenced earlier found that general aviation contributes more than $1.4 billion to the total economic output of Nevada annually, and supports 8,700 jobs and $486 million in labour income.

Elko, Nevada was a benefactor of early Federal Aviation development serving as a location for the early lighted air beacons that served as navigational aids for night flying on Air Route #1.  Elko was a recipient of the 1925 Air Mail Act. On April 6, 1926, pilot Leon Cuddleback, flying a newly established airline called Varney Airlines, flew from Pasco, WA to Elko, NV delivering mail by air. Elko remained a stop on the mail trunk route from Pasco, Boise, Elko, and Salt Lake City into the late 1930s. Varney Airlines would later become United Airlines. Today, Elko Regional Airport is a Part 139 airport with significant general aviation use to destinations around North America.

“A heartfelt thank you to our counterparts Tim Obitts, Ryan Waguespack, and Curt Castagna from NATA for joining us last week at Elko Regional Airport. A group of key community representatives and elected officials joined us for a discussion on the merits and benefits of Elko Regional Airport,” stated Michael Golden, Elko host and Mountain West Aviation Principal. “The community is remote and rural in nature but is connected to the world thanks to Elko Regional Airport. Aeromedical, aerial fire suppression, Part 121 service, air freight and mail and general aviation all depend on KEKO, which in turn generates a significant economic impact for the community.”

“NATA is grateful to our members who are supporting General Aviation Advancing America in a variety of ways. Our hosts and guests have been gracious and enthusiastic, and the open dialogue on the value of general aviation and airports could not have come at a better time. We hope that the positive energy and impact of this initiative is felt throughout the industry and country for time to come,” added NATA President and CEO Timothy Obitts.