Planes Upgraded to Jets Instead of Props

Passengers flying out of Santa Maria are now heading to San Francisco. Direct flights to Los Angeles are no longer.

The airport made the switch Wednesday with two United Express flights traveling to San Francisco International Airport from Santa Maria Public Airport at 6 a.m. and 2:03 p.m.

“The changeover happened this morning and we’re excited that the upgrade in aircraft and hub has gone so well,” Airport District General Manager Chris Hastert said Wednesday. 

The switch to San Francisco as a hub provides access to 25 unique one-stop destinations that are not offered by United at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), such as Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, Kansas City and Indianapolis. It also provides an improved international element, with access to new destinations including Paris, France; Chengdu, China; Frankfurt Germany and Osaka, Japan.

Airport officials said the switch represents a substantial increase in both the number of flights and seats available.

Not only has a change occurred in destination, but in aircraft. The service to San Francisco — operated by Skywest Airlines — will use Canadair Regional Jet 200s, which allow 50 passengers, instead of the 30-passenger Embraer EMB 120 turboprop aircraft which was used to fly to LAX.

Skywest recently announced it would be retiring the turboprop aircraft, which prompted airport officials to look into other options.

Orcutt resident Brian Steven said he sees the switch as a positive change. He flew out of Santa Maria on one of the turboprop aircrafts before the change was made, and arrived back in Santa Maria on Wednesday on one of the newly available jet flights.  “I love the fact that it’s jets, not props,” Steven said. “Not that I didn’t feel safe, but the props are too noisy.”  He also said it was handier for one of his common flight destinations: Boise, Idaho.

However, some travelers found immediate problems with the service change. Bruce Praet, who lives in Orange County, was in Santa Maria for business and had to fly north to San Francisco in order to fly south to his final destination of Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Pismo Beach resident Sherry Richardson was headed to Kansas City, Missouri, by way of San Francisco on Wednesday and had weather concerns.  “Last time I tried to fly through San Francisco, my flight was canceled and I had to go the next day, so I don’t like to take a chance on San Francisco,” Richardson said. “I miss the flights to LA.”

Hastert, however, said overall the changes have been well received and customer feedback has been positive.  “The larger, faster, smoother aircraft are providing an enhanced customer experience,” he said.

United Express flights to San Francisco will leave Santa Maria at 6 a.m and 2 p.m. daily. Arrivals from San Francisco will be at 1:32 and 11:47 p.m.

May 6, 2015  Santa Maria Times By Abby Hamblin

Flights from Santa Maria Public Airport are about to get easier with more options as United Airlines begins flying to and from San Francisco International Airport instead of Los Angeles International Airport on May 6.

With the change, travelers will have access to 35 unique one-stop destinations that are not offered at LAX and access to new international destinations, including Paris, France; Chengdu, China; Frankfurt, Germany; Taipei, Taiwan; and Osaka, Japan.

Chris Hastert, airport general manager, said the change was prompted by the announcement that Skywest was retiring the turboprop aircraft it has been using. That’s when airport officials thought it would be a good time to take a look at other ways to best address more of the airport’s needs.

The new United Express service, operated by Skywest, will replace the 30-passenger Embraer EMB 120 turboprop aircraft currently used on flights to L.A. with smoother, faster 50-passenger Canadair Regional Jet 200 aircraft. The aircraft will give the Santa Maria Airport a 67-percent increase in its available seating for travelers.

But Hastert said the airport didn’t want to add that capacity and not add more connections.

“Both San Francisco and Los Angeles are big hubs but United’s presence is a lot bigger at San Francisco than at Los Angeles,” Hastert said.

In May alone at the San Francisco Airport, there are 82 percent more flights on United and 85 percent more available seats on United than at LAX. That should give travelers more scheduling options.

Of course, along with enhanced flights travelers will notice a quieter, smoother ride as well, Hastert said.

The airport continues to work on its overall vision of adding new markets including to places like Denver and Seattle, Hastert said. However in recent years the fuel prices, economy and airline mergers had an effect on those discussions. He added that the climate is now changing for the better for airlines.

United Express flights to San Francisco will leave Santa Maria at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Arrivals from San Francisco will be at 1:32 and 11:47 p.m.

Bookings on the new flights are now available at


3/25/15   Shelly Cone Contributing Writer – Santa Maria Times

Travelers using Santa Maria Public Airport will soon be flying on regional jets instead of turboprop aircraft and will have easier connections to dozens of cities as a result of upgrades announced today by the Airport District.

United Airlines flights serving the Santa Maria Public Airport will begin flying to and from San Francisco instead of Los Angeles on May 6.

That will enhance one-stop connections to the Central Coast’s currently most popular destinations, an airport spokesman said.

It will also make new international destinations available, including Paris, France; Chengdu, China; Frankfurt, Germany; Taipei, Taiwan; and Osaka, Japan.

The new United Express service, operated by Skywest, will replace the 30-passenger Embraer EMB 120 turboprop aircraft currently used on flights to Los Angeles with smoother, faster 50-passenger Canadair Regional Jet 200 aircraft.

United Express flights to San Francisco will leave Santa Maria at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Arrivals from San Francisco will be at 1:32 and 11:47 p.m.

Bookings on the new flights are now available at

March 24, 2015  •  Staff report – Santa Maria Times

An Air Force Master Sgt. got a surprise welcome at Santa Maria Public Airport on Wednesday afternoon.

About 45 people, including more than a dozen uniformed airmen, shouted “Welcome home!” as Vanessa Boyd exited the secure area of the airport and walked through a corridor of supporters holding American flags.

Boyd, who is stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, thanked the gathered supporters after greeting her husband.  “I’m so happy,” she said.

Boyd was returning from a tour in Qatar, a small country on the Arabian Peninsula.  She was presented with a banner signed by supporters and given a high five from the St. Bernard dog that serves as the mascot of Welcome Home Military Heroes.

Robert Tolan, co-founder of the group, was on hand to personally greet Boyd.  “You can’t even really describe it,” Tolan said of the feeling he gets welcoming troops home from overseas.

The Navy veteran and his wife, Cheryl, started the nonprofit organization about four years ago after they found that there wasn’t any organized groups greeting servicemembers at the airport.

One of the troops they’ve welcomed home is their own son, a cavalry scout in the Army who served in Afghanistan.  “We wanted to let them know they’re appreciated,” Tolan said.

For more information about Welcome Home Military Heroes, visit

2/5/15  Santa Maria Times  Top of Form

2015-02-04T17:25:00Z 2015-02-04T22:50:16Z Welcome home: Air Force master sergeant returns from QatarKyle Harding Santa Maria Times

Kyle Harding

Martinez Back From Persian Gulf Deployment

It was a welcome home fit for a hero Tuesday as the community lined the corridor at the Santa Maria Public Airport to welcome home Petty Officer 3rd Class Vincent Martinez after a nine-month naval deployment to the Persian Gulf.

“I love being here. It feels great being home,” Martinez said after greeting friends and family.

The 2009 Nipomo High School graduate was deployed on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, where he is an aviation boatswain’s mate.

During his deployment, he and his crew were part of the mission that made the first strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  “We were the first ones to respond to the ISIS attacks, so I feel pretty accomplished about that,” he said.  Because of that experience, it was even more special for mom Tricia Martinez that her son was home.

“I’m so excited that he’s able to come home for Christmas and especially that he came home safe,” she said.  His younger brother, Alex, said he and his family had the opportunity to go to Virginia and see his brother’s ship arrive at port just after Thanksgiving.  “So that was really cool, but to get him home for Christmas break is just like the best feeling,” he said.

His dad, Ruben, said Martinez didn’t always have military aspirations, having worked at Little Jocko’s in Nipomo and The Swiss Restaurant and Bar in Santa Maria, but now he loves being in the Navy and loves what he does.  “I’m so proud of him, I can’t believe it,” Ruben said. “He’s made me so happy. He left here unsure, and he’s extremely happy with the choice he made.”

Adam Gutierrez, childhood friend of Martinez, waited in the airport with balloons and snacks for him. He said he was glad to have his friend back for a few weeks.  “He’s an all-out, outgoing guy,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve known him since the third grade, and we grew up together, and he’s been closest to me since then.”

Martinez will be home for a week and a half to celebrate the holidays before heading out again. He said he’s looking forward to relaxation, hanging out with friends and family and having some good home-cooked meals.

12-17-14  Santa Maria Times,  Santa Maria Times   Shelly Cone Contributing Writer

The Santa Maria Fire Department responded to a structure fire in a hangar at the Santa Maria Regional Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

Fire officials said that firefighters responded to a find a small plane on fire in the hangar. One person, who was working in the hangar, suffered a minor injury.

The fire was reported around 3:15 p.m. and was knocked down within 10 minutes of the crew’s arrival.  Smoke could be seen billowing from a hangar off Industrial Parkway.


10/29/14  Santa Maria Times

County Lines

The Santa Maria Airport received a $199,450 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday.  The announcement from U.S. Rep. Lois Capps reported that the money will pay for the design aspect of the airport’s apron refurbishment.  This apron is basically the aircraft parking lot where planes can wait, refuel and where passengers can board. The overall project will help to maintain the strength of the runway’s pavement.

This announcement follows the Santa Maria Airport Board of Directors’ approval in March of a contract with Ravatt Albrecht & Associates, Inc. for architectural services for the rehabilitation of the airport’s main hangar. The board also approved an agreement in April, allowing Coffman Associates to perform Wildlife Hazard Assessment Services as part of an FAA approved wildlife assessment.

9/26/2014  Santa Maria Times

Clubs From Across Country Visit Annual Event

Triumph sports car owners across the country are congregating in Santa Maria for a weekend of fun-filled driving, competition and camaraderie dubbed Triumphest. 

Drivers started gathering at the Radisson hotel on Thursday afternoon, washing and polishing every make, model and year from Triumph TR2s to TR8s. Bone stock — original owner cars — arrived at the same time as highly modified engineering marvels and “barn-find” beaters.

Triumphest, hosted by the Southern California Triumph Owners Association, originated in 1986 in Pismo Beach, dreamed up by a few Triumph enthusiasts who wanted to share their cars and have fun.

The event has blossomed into a full-fledged yearly blowout, a spokesman said, with members from Triumph clubs across the country traveling to California to enjoy the roads and sun. 

On Thursday afternoon, drivers started participating in a number of contests, including the Uff Da, where people were invited to share hard-luck stories about their travels to Triumphest in hopes of winning the Uff Da Award.

Other events today and Saturday include an autocross, where participants navigate through a miniature road course marked with pylons; a fun rally, where drivers travel through the Santa Maria Valley’s countryside roads; and the funkhana, an opportunity for participants to test their driving skills, while their partners perform feats of dexterity. 

The sports cars will be on display for residents who visit the Radisson hotel at the Santa Maria Public Airport through Saturday. For more information, visit

9/26/14  Santa Maria Times •  Staff report

A small plane with three people on board flipped on its back Friday afternoon while attempting to land at the Santa Maria Public Airport.

The pilot and passengers aboard the fixed-wing, single-engine Lionheart plane managed to walk away from the crash with only minor injuries, according to the airport’s general manager Chris Hastert.

The crash was reported at 12:52 p.m. Weather conditions were mostly sunny, with some clouds and wind upward of 10 miles per hour at the time.

Hastert said the plane veered off of the runway into a grassy area a few hundred feet away as it was coming in. The plane flipped onto its nose and then onto its back upon impact, Hastert said.  “Fortunately, there were very minor injuries,” he said, “and we had an excellent response from the Santa Maria Fire Department, the Santa Maria Police Department, which handled the situation.”

The passengers and the pilot, who were out of the plane by the time emergency crews arrived, refused medical treatment, according to the Santa Maria Fire Department.

By 2 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration had released the aircraft so that it could be towed away from the airport.

Operations at the airport continued with only minor disruption, as airline flights were directed to use the airport’s crosswind runway.

The plane is registered out of Los Osos, according to the FAA.


September 5, 2014   Santa Maria Times  Staff report

Santa Barbara County’s general election ballot is set, with many incumbents campaigning to keep their seats on North County special districts, but the level of competition varies.

While some races didn’t see enough candidates to fill available seats, others, like the Vandenberg Village Community Services District and the Santa Maria Public Airport District, saw more than enough attention, and it’s up to voters to decide who will take the open seats.

Vandenberg Village has two spots coming up for election at its community services district. Incumbents Charles Blair and Anthony Fox are trying to hold onto their positions as Robert Bumpass also tries to take a seat at the table.

And Santa Maria’s Airport District, with its two seats on the ballot, will turn to voters to decide between incumbents Carl Engel Jr. and Chuck Damiano, who are joined on the ballot by Michael Spingler and Hugh Rafferty. 

However, the Cuyama Valley Recreation District’s five seats coming up for grabs are being sought by four candidates, including incumbent Kim Eichert, former short-term director Troy Carpenter, Nicole Rodriguez and Maria Medina, who is running for another stint as a short-term director.

Three candidates filed for spots on the Lompoc Valley Medical Center board, matching the three seats up for election. Incumbents Mary Sharp and Roger McConnell joined the ranks of district hopeful Linual White Jr.

The numbers also aligned at the Mission Hills Community Services District, with Bruce Nix and incumbent James Mackenzie vying for the two available directors’ seats.

In Los Alamos, two incumbents filed to retake their seats at the community services district. Craig Snell and Susan “Susie” Gregg will get another term, but one seat remains unclaimed.

The Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation District has its own unclaimed seats as divisions 3, 4, 5 and 6 come up for election. Incumbents Deborah Askew and Casey Conrad stepped up to take back their 5th and 6th Division seats, respectively, but candidates did not file for the 3rd and 4th Divisions.

Incumbents Barry Marks and Stephen Daugherty make up the field running for four seats on the Santa Ynez Community Services District. Marks and Daugherty are running for short-term seats.

The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District needs to fill seats in its 1st, 4th and 5th divisions, and incumbents Jonathan Mundt, Art Hibbits and Jeffrey Newton have registered as candidates. Newcomer J. Brett Marymee is vying with Newton for the 5th Division seat, and voters will have to decide.  The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1 will fill one at large seat, which is being campaigned for by Lee Rosenberg and R. Brad Joos. Meanwhile, the improvement district is also looking to fill the 2nd and 3rd Division seats, with incumbent Kevin Walsh currently registered.

For more information on the upcoming elections, visit

August 25, 2014  •  Erin Lennon