‘A hop, skip, and a jump’: Test flight launches for Sacramento-Bay Area shuttle

Business executives board the plane that flew the test flight from Mather Airport to San Jose International Airport.
Business executives board the plane that flew the test flight from Mather Airport to San Jose International Airport.

Sacramento area business executives might be closer to seeing shuttle flights that can take them to Silicon Valley in as little as 35 minutes.

On Wednesday, heads of the business councils that are creating the flight service and local business executives rode a test flight that took off from Mather Airport in Rancho Cordova and landed in San Jose International Airport.

The flight is a “gift of time,” said Joe Gagliardi, president and CEO of the Greater Folsom Partnership, at a news conference before the test flight took off.

As increasingly more people living in Sacramento commute to the Bay Area for work, the Greater Folsom Partnership and the Greater Sacramento Economic Council aim to launch the shuttle flights to help businesses reduce the time their employees commute, often through hours of traffic.

“We are still just a hop, skip, and a jump from the most innovative market in the world, and I don’t see that changing over 10 years,” said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council.

Broome also sees the flight as a way to get more people who work in the Bay Area to consider living in Sacramento, which has a lower cost of living.

“This connectivity can be the first step among many to get people thinking in terms of, ‘How do I maintain a great lifestyle ... without dealing with $6,000 a month, one-bedroom apartments, or trying to figure out how to live in a $2 million house that’s 800 square feet,’ ” Broome said.

The business councils aim to launch a three-month pilot program in late fall. The program was previously slated to begin in mid-September, but will be pushed back because the business councils want to conduct more market research, said Will Kempton, an economic development consultant for the Greater Folsom Partnership.

In the pilot program as currently planned, an eight-seat King Air 200 airplane would fly to San Jose on Tuesday mornings and return late afternoon. There would also be flights to and from San Carlos on Thursdays. Roundtrip tickets would cost $350.

Of the cost, Kempton said, “Preliminary survey work shows that this dollar amount is an acceptable figure for our target audience when you consider the time savings and productivity gains associated with these flights.”

Local government officials have voiced support of the flight service. Micah Runner, deputy city manager of Rancho Cordova, said at Wednesday’s news conference that his wife drives to Santa Clara for work every day – six hours roundtrip. So he understands how arduous the commute can be.

“I’ll wave to her as we’re flying over Santa Clara,” he said. “I was hoping she would get a ride back, but it didn’t work out.”

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Elaine Chen, from the University of Chicago, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in the Bay Area and later in Beijing, China.