Saturday, July 11, 2015

Cape Air tests the waters on float plane routes • New York-Boston service in development, with Cape destinations a further possibility

HYANNIS – After about eight years of research into potential new services, Cape Air is looking at the water.

Founder and CEO Dan Wolf confirmed that the company is exploring a scheduled float plane route between Boston Harbor’s Fan Pier in the city’s Seaport District and New York Skyports Inc.’s seaplane base on the East River in Manhattan, at 23rd Street.

Avoiding the airport commutes will shave an hour and 15 minutes off the city-to-city trip, according to Wolf.

“And it opens the door to limited service on the Cape and Islands,” he said. “Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Hyannis all have great facilities.”

Wolf said Cape Air is now in the process of working with the Federal Aviation Administration to secure certification of the route on a scheduled basis, a six- to nine-month process that the company hopes to complete by the end of this year.

“The New York seaplane base has always been there on demand,” Wolf said. “This would be the first scheduled New York-Boston service.”

The plan is operate these flights year-round, starting in the fall of 2016. Because they are daylight-only flights, the initial schedule will be four round-trips per day, increasing to six per day in the summer, Wolf said.

The company also is looking into acquiring three new Cessna Caravan amphibian planes, which have the same seating configuration of Cape Air’s familiar nine-passenger, two-engine Cessna 402s.

Each of the new planes comes with a price tag of $3 million to $3.5 million.

“This is a big investment for Cape Air,” Wolf said.

Earlier this year, Cape Air, which is the nation’s largest independent regional airline, struck up a support agreement with a resort operator in the Bahamas as a way to begin building float plane experience.

“A lot of training is required to do this efficiently and safely,” Wolf said, adding that the training was for both pilots and mechanics.

The resort uses three float planes to shuttle guests back and forth from Miami to its beachfront hotel and casino on North Bimini Island, according to Resorts World spokeswoman Heather Krasnow.

It operates a fourth float plane on the island for shore excursions, she said.

Cape Air also is working on a fleet update plan to swap out its 402s for new models over time and add additional planes to support expanded service.

Currently, the company is looking at what the Chinese aviation corporation AVIC may have to offer. It’s also is in what Wolf called “exciting discussions” with the Italian company Tecnam about ordering approximately 100 planes over seven years once the company goes into production with the kind of aircraft Cape Air is looking for – twin-engine prop planes.

“There is now no viable twin-engine replacement being manufactured in the US,” Wolf said. “For Cape Air to be around in 20 years we need replacement planes. Twin engine is important for safety, and we want reciprocating as opposed to jets. We won’t settle for less.”


Spearfish works to expand Black Hills Airport-Clyde Ice Field (KSPF), South Dakota

SPEARFISH | After spending nearly $1.5 million to acquire land adjacent to Black Hills Airport/Clyde Ice Field, the city of Spearfish is awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to take over sponsorship of the airport from Lawrence County.

Following an executive session April 7, the Spearfish City Council unanimously voted to purchase 165 acres of land off Rainbow Road east of the airport for $1.465 million, City Administrator Joe Neeb said.

Reportedly once owned by Deadwood entrepreneurs Seth Bullock and Sol Star, the land was sold by Jane Carlstrom after four generations of her family had farmed and operated a dairy on it.

“This advances our efforts for growth and economic development,” Neeb said. “We believe the airport is an economic driver for the city and generates more than $12 million in annual economic impact for the state. Much of this land will be dedicated to a new crosswind runway, while we hope to develop the remainder for aviation-industry-type businesses.”

Neeb said the initial purchase was paid for with unrestricted funds from city coffers, but the city anticipates that the FAA and the state will assume as much as 95 percent of the costs of the acquisition.

City and airport officials have previously said the expansion of Clyde Ice Field was critical to the future growth of Spearfish. The state’s busiest general-aviation airfield, tucked on the eastern flank of the Northern Black Hills, it has gotten even busier in recent years due to the Bakken oil boom in western North Dakota, Niobrara developments in Nebraska and increasing production in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, officials said.

In addition, mounting business activity in Spearfish and second-home owners who flock to the Northern Hills throughout the year are increasingly using the facility, Airport Manager Ray Jilek explained. He said the airport has 10 on its waiting list who are seeking hangar space, and two additional parties who sought cover for larger corporate aircraft.

“We need to make sure we can provide for these guys before they go somewhere else for their aviation needs,” Jilek said Friday morning, minutes after greeting U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who had just landed at Clyde Ice Field.

At certain times the Spearfish airport is hit by crosswinds that prevent small- and medium-sized aircraft from landing on its existing 6,401-foot runway, forcing them to be diverted to one of two existing turf runways, Jilek explained.

But because of snow, frost and moisture, those turf runways are unusable eight months of the year, and the planned 4,000-foot surfaced crosswind runway would alleviate that problem, he said.

Optimistically, Jilek said he hoped construction on the crosswind runway would be underway in two to three years.

Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke said the process of changing sponsorship of the airport, designing a new runway, acquiring the necessary property, and gaining FAA approval required a great deal of patience.

“There’s a lot of hoops to jump through in order to be ready for the federal government to come in and do what they need to do,” Boke said Friday. “This is a multi-year process, and we are doing what we need to do so that when they say, `Go,’ we are ready to go.

“But that’s what we do to keep our airport vital and relevant to the needs of our community,” she said.


Gov. Ducey consolidating Arizona's airplane fleet, selling 3

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is consolidating the state's fleet of aircraft in a move designed to save money and make the use and maintenance of airplanes more efficient.

The state will sell three of 10 existing aircraft and transfer all of them to the Department of Public Safety. That move will save on hangar and maintenance costs.

The state is adding two nearly new planes it is getting for free from the federal government. The $10 million twin-engine M-28 Sky Truck aircraft are used by the military and can haul cargo or up to 14 passengers.

The governor's office says the state expects to make about $800,000 by selling the three oldest planes in its fleet. That also will cut maintenance costs because they are expensive to operate.