OWLS HEAD, Maine - The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected Cape Air to replace Colgan Air as the scheduled commercial air carrier providing low-fare flights between Boston and Knox County Regional Airport.
Airport Manager Jeff Northgraves said Friday the U.S. Department of Transportation released an order announcing the selection of Hyannis Air Service Inc., doing business as Cape Air, to become the scheduled commercial air carrier.
The award provides an annual subsidy of $1.5 million to the carrier for a two-year period beginning when Cape Air inaugurates full air service scheduled to start Nov. 1.
Northgraves said that at the time of deregulation of the air industry a few years ago, the DOT established the essential air services carrier contracts with subsidies, recognizing that some airports would never be profitable. The subsidies are designed to help small airports attract good-quality airlines.
Cape Air plans to operate three daily round trips, or 21 trips a week, October through May four daily round trips, or 28 trips a week, for June and September and five daily round trips, or 35 trips a week, for July and August, to Logan International Airport in Boston.
The airline will fly a nine-seat Cessna 402 aircraft in and out of Owls Head.
The U.S. DOT had received proposals from two carriers for the new agreement: Cape Air and Colgan Air, doing business as U.S. Airways Express, the incumbent carrier.
At Northgraves’ recommendation, the Knox County commissioners in June voted 3-0 to support Cape Air as the new carrier. That vote followed an 8-0 recommendation from the Airport Public Advisory Committee to endorse the Cape Air proposal.
Rockland City Manager Tom Hall in a letter to the U.S. DOT said the city has no ownership or operational responsibility regarding the regional airport.
Even though Colgan’ s proposal to use larger aircraft may provide greater comfort for passengers and economic development opportunities, Hall said, the reduced frequency of flights, the reduced actual numbers of available seats and the higher fares make the Colgan proposal undesirable.
Written comments from the public were evenly split in their support for Colgan and Cape Air.
The U.S. DOT in its announcement considered the case straightforward. The elected Knox County officials, the owner and operator of the regional airport, supported Cape Air’ s proposal. Cape Air’ s proposal did not require an airport upgrade, and its arrangement with Jet Blue would provide for “seamless connections throughout its system.”
Northgraves said officials from Cape Air plan to come to the airport about the third week in August to work out details and a business plan.
In addition, Northgraves has scheduled public meetings on the multimillion-dollar safety projects at the airport. The $6 million projects should be completed by Labor Day, he said.
“The new parallel taxiway and enhancements to the airports infield are scheduled to be completed this month,” he said.
The meetings also will consider the development of a long-term business plan of up to 20 years for the airport.
“In anticipation of the changes, including the change of carrier, the county commissioners chartered a committee to develop a business plan for the airport and explore alternatives for a new passenger terminal,” he said.
The county won a Federal Aviation Administration grant to fund the planning efforts, and the committee has been meeting regularly for the past several months, he added.
The first public meeting will be held at the Owls Head Transportation Museum 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14.
The second meeting will be held at the Camden Opera House 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20.
For information on the meetings, call Northgraves at 593-9323 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.