Saturday, April 26, 2014

Airport authority backs Silver Airways proposal

REYNOLDSVILLE - Citing job retention and familiarity for the traveling public, members of Clearfield and Jefferson Counties Regional Airport Authority, at yesterday's meeting, approved backing a proposal from Silver Airways to serve as DuBois Regional Airport's essential air service provider.

The authority also denounced rumors the airport is closing.

"Regardless of what happens with the essential air service contract, the airport is not closing. We will continue to operate, as will the other airports served by Silver Airways," said Loren Bishop, authority chairman.

Silver announced in mid-February it was withdrawing, no later than May 15, from providing federally subsidized flights from DRA as well as airports at Jamestown, N.Y., Bradford, Franklin and Parkersburg, W.Va. Its notice to the authority said the company wanted to strengthen its operations, build its fleet, increase revenue, reduce costs and better position itself for future growth and new markets.

The company's two-year EAS contract to provide flights from DuBois to Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport would have expired Aug. 30. The company has provided EAS at DRA since September 2008.

Silver was one of four companies that provided proposals to the U.S. Department of Transportation's recent advertisement for bids to provide EAS to a host of airports in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Others were received from City Link Air, Boutique and Sun airlines. City Link Air had the lowest total package offer to service seven airports, including DRA.

Silver's offer said three flights would be provided daily from DuBois to Washington-Dulles International Airport, Dulles, Va. The airport services the Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Northern Virginia metropolitan area. It also wants to retain the aircraft maintenance facility located at DRA.

Silver Airways, whose offer was the third lowest of the four received, is the only company that wants to use the maintenance facility, although the authority said yesterday that in a recent conversation with City Lake Air's owner, he said that he would "be open to conversation" about using the facility. The authority said yesterday 24 jobs would be lost if the repair operation closes.

The authority also said yesterday that Silver Airways meets criteria established by its executive committee for an EAS provider in that it provides a seamless transition for checked luggage from DRA to the traveler's destination, an ease in purchasing tickets and is affiliated with a national airline, United Airways.

Members said yesterday Silver has not been perfect in the past and has had some issues with canceling flights because it did not have available crews, but has a new incentive program in place to retain pilots it believes can be successful in avoiding future staffing problems.

Comments on the proposals for EAS will be accepted by the federal Department of Transportation through May 28. The agency will then make a decision on the proposals.

Bob Shaffer, DRA manager, said the federal DOT will make the decision based on cost and "whatever attributes it uses in the selection process."

The authority said yesterday it hopes to also secure support for Silver Airways from the Clearfield and Jefferson counties boards of commissioners, local chambers of commerce, and other economic development groups and the airport's frequent users.

Also yesterday, the authority approved a three-year contract with Western Pennsylvania Gas Leasing Consultants LLC of Meadville to obtain and negotiate a natural gas exploration lease for an approximately 400-acre parcel, pending a review of the contract and concurrence by its solicitor.

The company will take 10 percent of the land value as its fee with the remainder and all royalties for gas being the property of the authority.

The authority said they have tried in the past to market the parcel for leasing but were unsuccessful largely because of the timing.

In other business, the authority:

• approved GIA Consultants, DuBois, proceeding with the design and advertising for proposals for a project to widen, adjust the grade and resurface a portion of the taxiway leading to its rental hangar.

The authority plans to apply to the Federal Aviation Administration and the state Department of Transportation's Bureau of Aviation for a portion of the cost. Applications for FAA funding are due July 15.

• extending terms and provisions of the current contract with Hertz on a month-by-month basis until a new EAS provider is chosen. A new contract will be negotiated after an airline is named, Shaffer said.

• revised a rental contract with Jessup Seal Coating for space in its rental hangar. Previously, the company had rented both hangar and land space.

• gave permission to Shaffer to negotiate the terms and fee for agreement with an adjacent landowner to harvest timber. The landowner, who is a logger, Shaffer said, wants to use a road to transport the logs and a small section of land for staging. Both are located on the airport's property.

• heard a commemorative flight for the 75th anniversary of Air Mail Route 1001 will be held May 17. Included in the celebration is a special presentation at noon that day on the outdoor pavilion of The Flight Deck restaurant at DRA. The festivities begin at 10:30 a.m. at Clearfield-Lawrence Township Airport with the special cancellation of a 75th anniversary envelope.  The flight, known as Adam's Pickup Experimental Air Route 1001 from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh picked up mail at cities and towns including Clearfield, with a refueling stop at DuBois. It lasted 10 years as AM Route 49E and was the start of All American Aviation, which later became USAir.    The authority's next meeting is May 23 at 8:30 a.m. at DRA's conference room.