Summer flights for Taos Air have been grounded for 2019.
The new air service in Taos County will no longer be offering summer flights as officials cite a lack of planes and pilots for the previously scheduled three flights per week. Taos Air was set to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars of marketing support money from local municipalities and due to this announcement will no longer get the funds for the 2019 summer air services.
"It turned out that our operator [Ultimate Jet Charters] couldn't work out the service for the summer," said Chris Stagg vice president of Taos Ski Valley. "We decided the best thing was to not do it for the summer and focus on winter service."
Stagg said the cancellation had to do with the "availability of pilots and planes" and said no contracts were breached as a result of the announcement. Town of Taos officials said the service just wasn't going to work this summer and wanted to focus on the future as well.
Due to the cancellation of the flights, Taos Air has said it will refund flights that have already been paid for.
Municipalities across the Enchanted Circle voted to set aside marketing dollars for Taos Air's summer services, with some planning to contribute over $10,000 of lodger's tax funds to the marketing and promotion of Taos Air.
The town of Taos approved $650,000 to be sent to Taos Air, $400,000 from the transportation fund and $200,000 from a federal grant. Without the services, the town will not receive the money from the grant.
"The bottom line is, this wasn't a misstep or setback but we took a close analysis of what we were trying to achieve in the long run for the town, TSV and the Enchanted Circle," said town manager Rick Bellis.
According to Stagg, no money from municipalities has been used for the the air services for the summer yet.
The town of Taos' $200,000 contribution from their lodger's tax fund would remain reserved for the service. Town Marketing and Tourism Director Karina Armijo said the town would maintain their funding agreement to Taos Air and would keep it in the budget for next summer.
Taos Air was set to be a summer economic boom for towns on the Enchanted Circle like Red River.
"We were very excited about it happening," said Red River Mayor Linda Calhoun. "We're just going to go with the flow."
The Red River Town Council voted to fund $19,000 to Taos Air during an April 1 meeting.
Calhoun said she believed the town has paid $4,000 so far to Taos Air and is not concerned about the money at this time. She said she was confident the money would be used next year, or returned to the town.
According to an economic study done on Taos Air, Red River was projected to make over $45,000 in tourism spending due to the summer service. Calhoun said Red River did see a small increase of visitors due to Taos Air's services over the winter season.
"Its a little disappointing not to have the flights," Stagg said. "Everyone has a pretty strong marketing plan. It's a good summer, we shouldn't have forest closures and I think everyone should see a good increase [in gross receipts tax]."
Several community members in the area of the airport are relieved to hear of the loss of the summer air service.
County resident John Polozzi lives near the airport and said the Taos Air planes are flying "dangerously low" and close to his neighborhood.
"I believe they are putting everyone who lives in that area in danger," he said.
Polozzi and a group of neighbors said they are not against Taos Air, but were told the planes would fly a certain pattern so that their homes would not be in the direct takeoff and landing path.
Despite the promises, Polozzi said the planes are flying close enough to his home for him to see the numbers on the tail fin of the plane.
Town officials said the planes are landing and taking off in the proper manner and said residents in the area came in long after the airport was built.
"The airport is where it is because it was built in any area where no homes or businesses existed and before the Gorge Bridge was even built," Bellis said. "The Town bought hundreds of acres around the airport including the landfill to prevent people from encroaching on it, but the houses have come well after the airport and garbage dump were built and already there."
Polozzi and his neighbors said they will be enjoying the disrupt in air services in the area and are hoping to change the flight paths of the planes away from their homes.