By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
Calaveras County's only airport sits atop a hill off Highway 49 between San Andreas and Angels Camp. The view from the runway is of rippling hills and sky.
Whether those skies are brilliant blue or misty gray, there are about 25,000 takeoffs and landings a year on the 3,600-foot paved, lighted runway according to Airport Manager Kathy Zancanella. She said the airport gets Lear Jets, large turbo twin-engines and many Cessnas and Beechcraft.
"UPS flies in every morning with packages," she said. "Government officials and lawyers fly in and we give them a ride to the Government Center."
Real estate developers fly in, as do golfing parties. Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital uses the airport for medical emergencies and patient transfers. There are even Calaveras County commuters who fly to Palo Alto or Livermore on Monday, work a couple of days and fly home, according to Zancanella.
Officially named Calaveras County Airport - Maury Rasmussen Field, the site is known as the "new" airport among aviation buffs who have been around a while. The old airport was built in the 1950s near San Andreas. By the late 1960s it became clear that a larger site was needed.
The present, 89-acre site was purchased for $41,800. The airport consulting firm of Hodges & Shutt of Santa Rosa developed the airport in 30 months using 15 contractors.
It opened in December of 1981. Zancanella and other pilots flew planes from the old airport to the new.
"That first day, Maury Rasmussen's Midget Mustang was the first plane to fly up here," said Zancanella. "Then a charter plane. And my plane was number three. It was a special time for all of us."
Over the next few weeks, all 55 planes flew up and took their places on the new airport's tarmac.
Today, 77 planes call Calaveras County Airport home.
The airport, owned and operated by the county, has 38 T-hangars (small, one-plane hangars) and five commercial hangars (two for antique airplane restoration, two for maintenance and one for airplane storage and a machine shop).