Surf Air, the controversial commuter airline behind thousands of residents' noise complaints to the San Carlos Airport, has stopped using the airport, county officials say.
Gretchen Kelly, the manager of the San Mateo County-owned airport, said that the last record the airport has of a Surf Air plane landing at the airport is June 29, but added that workers affiliated with the company say it may be back in October.
A startup airline that began using the San Carlos Airport in June 2013, Surf Air offered unlimited flights for a monthly fee and scheduled as many as 45 flights a day in and out of the airport.
In mid-June, however, Surf Air replaced Encompass Aviation LLC with Advanced Aviation LLC as its flight operator. Days later Encompass sued Surf Air, claiming $3.1 million in unpaid bills. In addition, the federal government says Surf Air owes $2.33 million in taxes, and San Mateo County says Surf Air owes it $131,371 for 2017 taxes and may owe more for 2015 and 2016.
Surf Air has since filed a counterclaim to the Encompass lawsuit, asking that Encompass return the PC-12 turboprop planes it has subleased from Surf Air and claiming at least $10 million in damages. Surf Air has also requested a jury trial.
Court filings show the trial, filed in the Southern District of New York, wouldn't take place for at least six months, with pre-trial motions due by Feb. 11.
After the change in flight operators, the airport recorded only 51 arrivals or departures by Surf Air before the flights stopped altogether.
Some residents say they have seen and heard Surf Air's distinctive blue-bottomed planes over their homes recently, but Kelly said many privately owned Pilatus aircraft use the San Carlos Airport and that "blue and white is a common paint scheme for the Pilatus."
Kelly said that no one from Surf Air officially notified the airport that the flights would be discontinued, but that the company's ground crew said flights would be discontinued through the end of September. Surf Air no longer includes San Carlos as a destination on its website, but is still flying some planes into and out of the Oakland and San Jose airports.
In the meantime, former operator Encompass has renamed itself Roam. Its new website says Roam uses the San Carlos Airport, but Kelly said the company has not actually landed any flights there.
Surf Air accuses Encompass in its counterclaim of continuing to use Surf Air's planes.
Neither Surf Air's attorney nor its spokeswoman acknowledged The Almanac's requests for comment.
Burning Man traffic increase
Traffic at the airport also traditionally is heavy during the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. County spokeswoman Michelle Durand said charter flights will be going to and from the Black Rock City Airport during Burning Man, which this year is Aug. 26 to Sept. 3.
Kelly, the airport manager, said airport employees have worked with festival staff "to emphasize the importance of using the quietest arrival and departure settings possible when operating into and out of the San Carlos Airport."
All charter aircraft operators pay a $75 landing fee at the San Carlos Airport. The airport does not have any available overnight vehicle parking for charter passengers due to ongoing construction projects.
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