Not Again! Is the Palmdale “Intercontinental” Airport Rising From the Dead?

        Bear with us, readers. We know that if you have any knowledge of the background of this caper, and if you are reading this, you must feel that your credulity is being stretched to its breaking point, but it’s all too true. The City Council of Palmdale, California, “has authorized the creation of an aviation department and commission to oversee development of the now-closed Palmdale Regional Airport.” Dan Weikel, Palmdale Moves to Develop Airport, L.A. Times, Apr. 3, 2009, at p. A7.

         For the benefit of new readers, and those too weary to review our chronicles of the misadvetures of the City of Los Angeles’ 30-year effort to create and operate a commercial airport in Palmdale, here is a thumbnail summary: about 30 years ago, the city of Los Angeles took by eminent domain some 17,500 acres of land located in the high desert near Palmdale, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles, for what it modestly dubbed the Los Angeles “Intercontinental” Airport that was supposed to accommodate the growing traffic at LAX. That land acquisition alone cost the L.A. taxpayers some $100 million — and those were circa 1980 dollars, so in today’s money that sum must be around four or maybe five times that amount. But it turned out to be a boondoggle. To say that this “Intercontinental” airport has been a failure, would be to flatter it. Over the past 30 years, some eight airlines — one after another — have tried to operate out of there, but each of them eventually threw in the towel and terminated operations — the most recent airline was United which called it quits about four months ago. For more details, check out our posts of November 13, 2008, entitled Update on the Palmdale Airport, and December 17, 2008, entitled The Palmdale Airport Saga Goes On, and The Palmdale “Intercontinental” Airport — Is There Life After Death?  February 23, 2009. 

           What emerges from all that is that there simply is no market for economically viable commercial air transportation services out of the small, economically downscale, high desert community of Palmdale. So unless one assumes world class incompetence of the part of Los Angeles — which is possible but not proven — the problem appears to be insoluble. If nothing else, there are no direct freeways and no rapid transit services connecting Palmdale to the large population centers from which sufficient numbers of air passengers would have to come.

           As we noted, the city of Los Angeles finally acknowledged reality, shut down this airport, and surrendered its certification to te FAA. So you might think that this was the end of this saga. But evidently not — now, the city of Palmdale wants to take another shot at it. In fairness, perhaps we should wait and see if Palmdale accomplishes anything where Los Angeles couldn’t. Taking in that spectacle might even be amusing, if it weren’t for the fact that nine-figure fortunes have already been frittered away, with nothing to show for it, and Palmdale’s future efforts are certain to expend more public funds on . . .what?

         But what the hell? Let’s see what happens.

         Your tax money at work.