Tuesday, December 11, 2018

California Pacific Airlines runway taxiing bump with backhoe led to flight delays and cancellations at Pierre Regional Airport (KPIR), South Dakota

California Pacific Airlines, formerly known as Aerodynamics, Inc., or ADI, has quit its charter business to concentrate on its new scheduled passenger services with its modest fleet of four 50-passenger jets.

In addition to its Watertown-Pierre to Denver flights, it began new California flights out of San Diego last month and needs to focus on scheduled air service instead of its charter service, Mickey Bowman, executive vice president and chief operations officer for CPAir.

At the same time, the airline has had difficulties with delays and cancellations, largely due to a runway accident at the Pierre Regional Airport that damaged the wing of one of its jets in October, taking it out of service for longer than expected, Bowman told the Capital Journal last week.

Both roundtrip flights on Monday, Dec. 10, from Pierre to Denver were cancelled, according to CPAir’s website.

It took a month to get the necessary repair information from Embraer, the Brazilian company that makes the 50-passenger jets, Bowman said. The repair work on the jet began last week at an Embraer-approved repair facility in Springfield, Missouri, Bowman said.

“We are very hopeful that it will be back next week” flying out of Pierre, Bowman said last week.

CPAir’s flights from Carlsbad, California, to Phoenix, Arizona, also were cancelled Monday. Those flights only began Nov. 15.

The accident at the Pierre airport that led to the damage is still under investigation, Bowman said.

On Friday, Oct. 26, as the CPAir jet was taxiing on the runway to prepare for takeoff, the tip of a wing clipped a small backhoe type excavator parked along the runway near where work was being done near a new hangar.

“It definitely was not pilot error,” Bowman told the Capital Journal last week. “We were told all the equipment was safely off the throughway for the taxiway. Unfortunately they had parked it with part of the (excavator) outside the area assigned to (the construction work). We are dealing with insurance folks with that backhoe, so we will be settling for that, over time.”

Having one aircraft out so long unexpectedly led to flight delays and cancellations, Bowman said.

“We have recently had a string of what I would best characterize as coincidences, which seemed to happen all at once,” Bowman told the Capital Journal.

He said in the first two years and a few months of service to Pierre, only a couple flights have been cancelled and the rate of on-time service has been high. Mike Isaacs, manager of the airport, confirms that and regularly reports to the City Commission that CPAir’s service has been consistent and reliable.

Until the recent difficulties.

CPAir flies four “segments,” or legs, each roundtrip on the Watertown-Pierre-Denver route, which means eight “segments” each day with two round trips; and four segments on Wednesday and Saturday when only one roundtrip is flown.

According to Ryan DeVita, director of sales and marketing for CPAir, from Sept. 1-Oct. 24, the company’s flight record showed “328 out of 328 segments completed successfully” on the Watertown-Pierre-Denver route.

But from Oct. 24-Dec. 5, CPAir flew only 242 out of 283 segments successfully, or 85.5 percent, according to DeVita’s figures. That did not include cancellations since Dec. 5, including both flights from and to Watertown-Pierre-Denver, including eight segments, being cancelled on Monday, Dec. 10.

With new flights now being flown in California, CPAir hasn’t always been able to do all it’s scheduled to do with its fleet of four jets, when one is out and others need maintenance..

But Bowman said it’s not a lack of jets, but of pilots, that continues to be a major challenge for smaller airlines, due to increased training regimes mandated by the DOT in 2014.

“We cancelled all our charter business, just to concentrate on the new business,” Bowman said. “That’s a huge change for us, because the charter flight has always been our biggest business.”

ADI/CPAir has flown many NCAA basketball teams to games, as well as NASCAR drivers to races over the years.

“We will not be performing any charter services,” Bowman said. “We have made the decision we are first and foremost a schedule carrier.”

CPAir pays a price for missing any of the flights out of Pierre.

CPAir/ADI has a Essential Air Service contract with the federal transportation department requiring it to fly 12 round trips a week from Watertown-Pierre-Denver. When it has to cancel a flight, it can’t collect the federal subsidy for that flight, Bowman said.

“So everything in the world makes us want to perform.”

Meanwhile, the Pierre Regional Airport appears set to surpass the key 10,000- passenger total needed to continue receiving a $1 million federal grant for the airport.

Through Nov. 30, 9,836 passengers had flown from Pierre in 2018, an average of 894 a month; based on that, the year should end with about 10,700 passengers.

In 2017, the first full year of ADI providing flights, 11,791 passengers boarded in Pierre, including a special non-ADI flight promoted by city leaders of a junket to a Nevada casino for a weekend in July, 100 passengers flew on that one.

The cancellations the past six weeks no doubt have contributed to the fact that that this year so far, CPAir/ADI is running behind its numbers in Pierre in 2017 for the first 11 months of the year: 10,650 through Nov. 30 in 2017, which is 814 fewer passengers than in the same 11 months this year.

Nearly all of that deficit came in the key months of August, September and October: a total of 2,958 this year, down a full 767 from the 3,725 who flew from Pierre during those three months in 2017, according to the airport’s statistics.

For what it’s worth, January, February, March and July of this year have been the only months showing more passengers than the same months in 2017 of CPAir/ADI’s flights.

Leaving the charter business is all ADI was about for a half-century, flying out of the Detroit area since 1959 until Scott Beale bought it in about 2012 and moved the headquarters to Kennesaw, in the Atlanta area.

Beale had plans to seek a federally-subsidized scheduled passenger service between Pierre and Denver. But federal officials cited Beale’s business problems and history of defrauding partners in denying ADI any contracts until it found a new owner. John and Janet Beardsley of SeaPort Airlines in California bought ADI, which began on Aug. 15, 2016, flying 12 round trips a week from Watertown, South Dakota and Pierre to Denver under the Essential Air Service program of the federal Department of Transportation to subsidize air service to small, isolated communities.

ADI flew as Great Lakes Jet Express in a deal using “code sharing” access to the Denver airport of Great Lakes Airlines of Cheyenne which had provided air service to Pierre for decades.

To illustrate the difficulties for smaller airlines, Seaport went out of business in the past year and

this spring, Great Lakes suspended its airline service.

ADI was bought by California Pacific Airlines which planned to also begin air service out of the San Diego area.

In August, ADI was “rebranded” as California Pacific Airlines, including repainting the jets.

Meanwhile, California Pacific began scheduled commercial passenger service from Carlsbad, California, to other California cities. It plans to add flights to Phoenix.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.capjournal.com

1 comment:

  1. “It definitely was not pilot error,” Bowman told the Capital Journal last week.

    Question: Can you see the wingtips from the cockpit in this aircraft?