Lake Tahoe Airport

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Lake Tahoe Airport
Airport typePublic
OperatorCity of South Lake Tahoe
LocationSouth Lake Tahoe, California
Elevation AMSL6,269 ft / 1,911 m
Coordinates38°53′38″N 119°59′43″W / 38.89389°N 119.99528°W / 38.89389; -119.99528Coordinates: 38°53′38″N 119°59′43″W / 38.89389°N 119.99528°W / 38.89389; -119.99528
Direction Length Surface
ft m
18/36 8,541 2,603 Asphalt

Lake Tahoe Airport (IATA: TVL, ICAO: KTVL, FAA LID: TVL) is a public airport three miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe, in El Dorado County, California. It covers 348 acres (141 ha) and has one runway; it is sometimes called Tahoe Valley Airport.


The airport in the Sierra Nevada just south of Lake Tahoe opened in 1959 with a 5900-ft runway. Beginning in 1962 it had a few airline flights: the first were on Futura Airlines,[1] an intrastate airline, and on Paradise Airlines, both flying Lockheed L-049 Constellations. Paradise ceased operations after a fatal accident in the mountains near Lake Tahoe and Pacific Air Lines arrived in 1964 with Fairchild F-27s. That summer, Lake Tahoe was a stop on an F-27 "milk run": flight 771 Reno-Lake Tahoe-Sacramento-San Francisco-San Jose-Fresno-Bakersfield-Los Angeles-San Diego. In 1966 Pacific started the first jet service to Lake Tahoe, Boeing 727-100s flying Los Angeles (LAX)-San Jose-Lake Tahoe. A 1966 Pacific Air Lines route map depicted nonstop 727 service to San Francisco (SFO) and Reno.[2] This 727 service lasted less than a year, and Lake Tahoe did not see scheduled jets again until 1983; scheduled airline jets were banned by the local government after Pacific ended its 727 flights.[3] Pacific Air Lines and successors Air West and Hughes Airwest continued F-27 flights until 1973.

Holiday Airlines served Lake Tahoe with Lockheed L-188 Electras in the 1960s and early 1970s, followed by Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) and Air California (later AirCal) Electras starting in 1975. Sierra Pacific Airlines, a commuter air carrier, served the airport in the mid 1960s with flights to San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Monterey.[4] Skymark Airlines, a predecessor of Golden West Airlines (which later served the airport as well), flew de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters in the late 1960s nonstop to Sacramento and Fresno and direct to Oakland, San Jose and Monterey.[5] Valley Airlines, another commuter airline, was serving the airport in 1969 with nonstop flights to Reno, San Francisco, San Jose and Stockton.[6]

PSA dropped Lake Tahoe in 1979, as did Air California a few months later. The replacements were Aspen Airways and Cal Sierra Airlines, both flying Convair 580s, and Air Pacific (United States) and successor Golden Gate Airlines as well as Golden West Airlines with all three airlines operating de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7s. Pacific Coast Airlines (formerly Apollo Airways) served the airport with Handley Page Jetstreams while Gulf Air Transport, McCulloch International Airlines and Nomads Travel Club nonscheduled gambling charters all used Electras. Other turboprop operators were Royal American Airways with the Vickers Viscount,[7] Sierra Expressway with the BAe Jetstream 31[8] and Alpha Air operating as Trans World Express for TWA with the Beechcraft 1900C.[9]

According to the Official Airline Guide, six regional and commuter airlines were serving Lake Tahoe in spring 1981 including Air Sierra, Aspen Airways, Cal Sierra Airlines, Golden Gate Airlines, Golden West Airlines and Great Sierra Airlines with a combined total of up to 24 flights a day.[10] The April 1, 1981 edition lists nonstop flights from Burbank, Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orange County, Reno, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Truckee, CA.

Jet service resumed in 1983 with AirCal McDonnell Douglas MD-80s and later Boeing 737-300s. AirCal flew nonstop to Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose, CA and direct to Burbank and Orange County. In 1987 a daily AirCal 737-300 flight was scheduled direct to Chicago O'Hare Airport via San Francisco and Orange County. American Airlines acquired AirCal in 1987 and continued to serve Lake Tahoe with the former AirCal 737-300s but soon switched its service to regional partner American Eagle which operated Saab 340s and Fairchild Swearingen Metroliners to the airport in the 1990s. American was the only major airline to serve Lake Tahoe. In late 1989 American and code sharing affiliate American Eagle were the only airlines at Lake Tahoe, American with Boeing 737-200s and American Eagle with Metro IIIs.[11] At one point Reno Air flew McDonnell Douglas MD-80s and MD-87s nonstop to Los Angeles; other jets included BAC One-Elevens and Convair 990s on nonscheduled casino charters. The four engine Convair 990 jet operated by Denver Ports of Call airlines could land at the airport but could not depart from Lake Tahoe with a full load of passengers, so departing passengers were bused to the Reno airport and boarded the 990 there.[12]

In 1999 Casino Express Airlines operating as Tahoe Air started low fare Boeing 737-200 service nonstop to San Jose and Los Angeles (LAX). Allegiant Air flew McDonnell Douglas DC-9 nonstops to Burbank, Fresno, Las Vegas and Long Beach in 1999-2000.[13] Tahoe Air ceased operations later in 1999 while Allegiant ended all service in 2000 and later became a low fare air carrier that is still in business. Lake Tahoe has not had scheduled passenger flights since, and the area is now served by Reno-Tahoe International Airport and Sacramento International Airport.

Due to budget cuts in 2001, the FAA ceased funding on-site weather observers who had also served as the airport's air traffic controllers. Unable to find replacement funding, the South Lake Tahoe city council voted to close the airport's Air Traffic Control Tower on October 1, 2004.[14][15] Despite the tower's closure, the airport continues to serve general aviation traffic using self-announce procedures for uncontrolled airports.

Beginning in 2006, the airport's former commercial airline terminal building was renovated and converted into a new city hall and administrative services office for the City of South Lake Tahoe. Relocating to airport land allowed the city to counter rising lease costs at their old location near Al-Tahoe.[16] Renovations completed and the new city hall opened in 2007.[17]


FBO services (e.g. fuel and ground support) are provided by Mountain West Aviation.

Attached to the former airline terminal building, the Flight Deck Sports Bar & Grill provides a public restaurant overlooking the airport's runway.

Former airline service[edit]

A Tahoe Air Boeing 737-200 at Lake Tahoe Airport in 1999.

Airlines in bold served Lake Tahoe with mainline jets. All of the following were served nonstop or direct:

  • Air California / AirCal: Burbank, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orange County, San Francisco, San Jose
  • Air Pacific (United States): Stockton, San Francisco
  • Air Sierra: Fresno, Mammoth Lakes
  • Allegiant Air: Burbank, Fresno, Las Vegas, Long Beach
  • Alpha Air (TWA Express code share with Beechcraft 1900Cs): Los Angeles, Mammoth Lakes, Orange County, Palm Springs, San Francisco
  • American Airlines: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose
  • American Eagle (Wings West Airlines): Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose
  • Aspen Airways: Burbank, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose
  • Cal Sierra Airlines: Burbank, San Diego
  • Futura Airlines: Oakland
  • Golden Gate Airlines: Reno, San Francisco
  • Golden West Airlines: Los Angeles, Ontario, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco
  • Great Sierra Airlines: Fresno, Oakland, Reno, San Jose, Truckee
  • Hawthorne Nevada Airlines: Hawthorne, NV
  • Holiday Airlines: Burbank, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose
  • Pacific Air Lines / Air West / Hughes Airwest: Los Angeles, Reno, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose and other California cities
  • Pacific Coast Airlines: San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Barbara
  • Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA): Burbank, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Ontario, San Diego, San Francisco
  • Paradise Airlines: Oakland, San Jose
  • Reno Air: Los Angeles
  • Royal American Airways: Las Vegas, Oakland
  • Sierra Expressway: Oakland
  • Sierra Pacific Airlines: Monterey, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose (this mid 1960s commuter air carrier is not to be confused with Sierra Pacific Airlines which was a separate airline that operated in California in the 1970s)
  • Skymark Airlines: Fresno, Monterey, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose
  • Tahoe Air: Los Angeles, San Jose
  • Valley Airlines: Reno, San Francisco, San Jose, Stockton
  • Yosemite Airlines: Columbia, CA, Monterey, San Francisco


  1. ^, 1962 Futura Airlines timetable
  2. ^, 1966 Pacific Air Lines ad
  3. ^
  4. ^, Aug. 6, 1966 Sierra Pacific Airlines timetable
  5. ^ http://www.timetablimages, Aug. 1, 1969 Skymark timetable
  6. ^, June 1, 1969 Valley Airlines route map
  7. ^ "Royal American Airways system timetable". November 1982.
  8. ^
  9. ^, April 2, 1995 Official Airline Guide
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^, 1999-2000 Allegiant schedules
  14. ^ Stern, Robert (19 Dec 2001). "FAA threatens to pull air traffic control tower funding". Tahoe Daily Tribune. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  15. ^ Wood, Susan (21 September 2004). "Airport tower axed by 3-2 vote". Tahoe Daily Tribune. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  16. ^ Ronan, Pat (28 September 2005). "Airport will make a great City Hall". Tahoe Daily Tribune. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  17. ^ "History of Lake Tahoe's Airports" (PDF). City of South Lake Tahoe. Retrieved 22 June 2020.

External links[edit]