First 757 touches down at Santa Maria Airport

Allegiant uses flight to test new Hawaiian-sized jets

A routine Allegiant Air flight from Las Vegas was anything but routine for the Santa Maria Public Airport.  Flight 502 from McCarran International Airport was special because it marked the first time a Boeing 757 carrying passengers visited SMX. Allegiant used the regular Friday flight to test out how the 757 would fit into the airport’s facilities prior to the start of its flights to Hawaii in November.

It’s the largest commercial carrier to land in Santa Maria. The jet’s wingspan is 124 feet, 10 inches, it’s 155 feet, 3 inches long and can carry up to 228 passengers.  “It’s quite a bit longer and a lot taller than anything we’ve had here before,” said airport General Manager Chris Hastert, who along with airport district President Carl Engel, Operations Supervisor Ric Tokoph and about 50 spectators watched the jet land and taxi up to the terminal.

The Boeing MD-80, Allegiant’s normal carrier on the Las Vegas route, is 8 feet shorter and its wings are 17 feet narrower than the 757.

Allegiant Air began offering service to Hawaii in June from its Las Vegas hub and Fresno. In May, the company announced it would add Santa Maria, Stockton, Eugene, Ore. and Bellingham, Wash. to the Hawaiian service.

The first flight from Santa Maria to Honolulu is set for Nov. 17, and the flying public is ready for the service, including Engel.  “This is what the public, I think, wants to see here at the airport. Hopefully the interest will continue and our (passenger) numbers will increase, which will help us in the attraction of an airline that will get us to an eastern hub,” Engel said. “This is just a one-step-at-a time kind of thing, but it’s a good first step.”

Like most first steps, it wasn’t completely steady. A new passenger ramp that was purchased last month specifically for the 757 didn’t match up to the main cabin door, so passengers had to exit the jet through the door near the tail of the jet.  But that was the only visible glitch.

“This is the shakedown,” Tokoph said. “They’re going to work out the details. They’re the guinea pigs.”

Hastert said the landing and the impending Hawaiian flights are monumental for the airport, its staff and board of directors.  “It is really big for us because it shows what we’ve done to the airport the last couple of years,” Hastert said. “Our board has done a lot to improve the facility, adding the baggage claim, the hold room and most recently the runway extension. If it wasn’t for the runway extension we wouldn’t have an aircraft this size coming into the airport.”

The main runway at the Santa Maria Public Airport was extended 1,700 feet to a length of 8,004 feet to accommodate planes the size of the Boeing 757.  The 1,700-foot runway extension project was finished earlier this year.

Boeing 757 technical characteristics

• Passenger capacity: 228

• Maximum fuel capacity: 11,489 gal.

• Maximum takeoff weight: 255,000 lbs.

• Maximum range: 3,900 nautical miles

• Cruising speed: Mach 0.80

• Wingspan: 124’ 10”

• Length: 155’ 3”

• Tail height: 44’ 6”

• Interior cabin width: 11’ 7”

October 20, 2012   By Brian Bullock / Staff Writer /