KTVL – South Lake Tahoe, CA
Lake Tahoe Airport is a public airport three miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe, in El Dorado County, California, USA. This general aviation airport covers 348 acres and has one runway. The airport is sometimes called Tahoe Valley Airport.
Beginning in 1963, this high elevation airport in the Sierra Nevada mountains just south of Lake Tahoe had few airline flights: the first were operated with Lockheed L-049 Constellation propliners by Paradise Airlines. However, following a fatal accident in the mountains near Lake Tahoe, Paradise disappeared and Pacific Air Lines commenced service in 1964 with Fairchild F-27 turboprop aircraft. Scheduled airline flights operated with jetliners were not allowed until the 1980s. Thus, airlines that wanted to serve Lake Tahoe primarily used turboprop aircraft for a number of years. Holiday Airlines operated Lockheed L-188 Electra turboprops from Lake Tahoe during the 1960s and early 1970’s and was the first airline to do so. Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) and Air California (later AirCal) delayed the retirement of their Electras to start flights to the airport. PSA retired their Electras and dropped Lake Tahoe in 1979 and Air California then ended their Electra flights a few months later. Replacement service was provided by Aspen Airways with Convair 580 turboprops as well as by Golden Gate Airlines and Golden West Airlines flying de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7 turboprops. Cal Sierra Airlines operated Convair 580 turboprops as well. Pacific Coast Airlines (formerly Apollo Airways) served the airport with Handley Page Jetstream commuter turboprops. Gulf Air Transport operated nonscheduled gambling charters using Electras.
The ban on scheduled airline jet operations was then rescinded. Jet service commenced in 1983 and was flown by AirCal using McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft and later with Boeing 737-300 jetliners. AirCal flew nonstop to Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose, CA, and also direct to Burbank and Orange County. In 1987 AirCal operated direct, no change of plane Boeing 737-300 service to Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD) via San Francisco and Orange County. American Airlines acquired AirCal in 1987 and continued flying to Lake Tahoe with the former AirCal 737-300s but soon transferred all service to its regional partner American Eagle which served the airport with Saab 340 and Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner commuter turboprops into the 1990s. American was the only major airline ever to serve Lake Tahoe. Reno Air also served Lake Tahoe at one point with McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jetliner service nonstop to Los Angeles. Other jet aircraft operated at the airport included British Aircraft Corporation BAC One-Eleven twin jets which were operated on nonscheduled charter flights for the local casinos.
In 1999 Casino Express Airlines operating as Tahoe Air commenced low fare flights using Boeing 737-200 jetliners with nonstop service to San Jose, CA (SJC) and Los Angeles (LAX). Allegiant Air, then based in Fresno, CA, was also flying from Lake Tahoe at this time with Douglas DC-9 jet service nonstop to Burbank (BUR), Fresno (FAT) and Las Vegas (LAS). However, the airport was unable to support two jet airlines and Tahoe Air continued service while Allegiant ended theirs. Tahoe Air then experienced financial difficulties and went out of business later that year. Lake Tahoe has not had scheduled passenger airline flights since.
The Lake Tahoe area is currently served by Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) in Nevada.