Maverick Airlines on Wednesday began a once-a-week air charter to bring foreign tourists to Castle Airport for visits to Yosemite National Park.
Mark Hendrickson, Merced County director of community and economic development, said Castle Airport has hosted various charter operations in the past, but Maverick Airlines is new to Merced County.
“This represents another positive step in terms of utilization of Castle Airport,” Hendrickson said. “We’re looking forward to helping Maverick Airlines achieve (its) goals. We believe that Castle is uniquely positioned to help these types of operators.”
About 14 passengers were on board the first flight Wednesday, according to Hendrickson. The flights will continue once a week through the summer.
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A bus waits at the former Air Force base to take the tourists to Yosemite, but county officials are hopeful the tourists can spend a little time in Merced County – a potential boost to the local economy.
“It would be our hope that they can frequent our local restaurants and establishments on their way to Yosemite,” Hendrickson said. “We would certainly like to see that happen.”
Hendrickson credited Gemini Flight Support for its role in bringing Maverick Airlines to Castle Airport.
Gemini’s vice president of operations, Jim Price, said in an e-mail that the Nevada-based airline also does charters to the Grand Canyon and sightseeing over Las Vegas.
“This is a new air venture and will add to the viability of Castle as an aviation location perfect for air operations in the Central Valley,” Price said.