Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Flying into the void on Nantucket: Cape Air offsets Island Airlines' demise with added flights; Rectrix plans service

HYANNIS — Effective immediately, Cape Air is stepping up passenger flights to fill the void created by Friday’s abrupt shutdown of Island Airlines, the only other year-round passenger carrier between Nantucket and the mainland.

At the same time Rectrix Commercial Aviation Services Inc., a Massachusetts-based aircraft charter and maintenance company that operates jet charters out of Barnstable Municipal Airport and other locations, is taking steps to start new commuter air service to the island and beyond.

Late yesterday afternoon, Cape Air finalized the addition of 12 round-trip flights per week to its Hyannis-Nantucket route.

“We heard from customers that they were in a bind,” said Trish Lorino, the company’s vice president of marketing and public relations. “We’re trying as best we can with what we have to meet that demand.”

The largest independent regional airline in the country, Cape Air serves more than 40 markets around the world, including New England, New York, the Caribbean, Midwest, Micronesia, Florida and the Bahamas.

But Nantucket is in the Hyannis-based company’s backyard and making the logistics work by shuffling resources, including aircraft, pilots and support staff, was a priority, Lorino said.

Cape Air’s new schedule includes two additional round trips between Hyannis and Nantucket from Monday through Friday — at different times on Friday — plus one additional round trip on Saturdays and Sundays.

These are passenger flights. Cape & Islands Air Freight went down along with Island Airlines last week, leaving an additional service gap.

“We are working on a possible solution for the freight service,” Lorino said.

Noah Karberg, public information coordinator for Nantucket Memorial Airport, said the loss of Island Airlines and its freight arm was a blow to residents, visitors and businesses there.

“They were the main air taxi provider,” he said. “And we are concerned about freight. They were a crucial link, a lifeline for spare parts" and other necessities.

Bringing in another airline to pick up the slack isn’t as easy as finding someone willing and able to provide the service, Karberg added.

Island Airlines and its freight company used a separate hanger, had its own parking lot, staff and a system for securely moving goods from its planes to its facilities and then to customers. All of that is off limits until bankruptcy proceedings are resolved, he said. The company had not filed for bankruptcy as of Tuesday afternoon in Massachusetts or Delaware, where it is incorporated.

Richard Cawley, CEO and co-owner of Rectrix, said his company is already working with the Federal Aviation Administration to expand its operating certificate to allow it to fly piston-driven commuter craft in addition to the 10- to 30-passenger jet charter service it is already offers.

“There is a need for the service and we believe we can run it efficiently and profitably,” he said Tuesday evening. “We’ve already started the process and met with the FAA today. We think the process will likely take about three months.”

He added that a Hyannis-Nantucket route would be just the start.

“We would also expand from Hyannis to New York, possibly White Plains,” Cawley said. “Worcester to Hyannis in the summer. New Jersey, Martha’s Vineyard to Hyannis. There are a lot of destinations.”

Rectrix, a privately held company based in Concord, has been in business for 10 years. Cawley said the company now employs more than 200 people in the state. In addition to its jet charter services, it provides maintenance and ground handling for major carriers, including JetBlue, Delta and Air Canada, he said.

Cawley said the cost of fuel is a primary reason airlines fail, and Rectrix has a leg up in that respect because it has its own fuel farm in Hyannis.

The company is looking into acquiring Beechcraft King Air twin-engine, turboprop, nine-passenger planes to start its commuter operations.

“We’ll start off with at least three,” Cawley said. “We started the search today.”


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