A regional passenger airline will return to the Bar Harbor-Hancock County Airport this summer after stepping in to fill a void created by another airline’s cancellation of service last year.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Silver Airways’ Saab SF-340B twin-engine aircraft will carry up to 34 passengers in daily trips between Bar Harbor and Boston’s Logan Airport during the busiest portion of Mount Desert Island’s tourist season, from May 23 to Sept. 3, said Brad Madeira, the airport’s manager.
The airport, which is located in Trenton, lacked a seasonal air carrier in June of last year after Alaska-based PenAir announced in May 2018 that it would not renew its Bar Harbor contract. The airport still offered flight service through its year-round carrier, Cape Air, but the lack of a second carrier could have decreased the number of passengers flying into and out of Bar Harbor, which could in turn have led to a reduction in its federal funding, officials have said.
As a pinch hitter last season, Silver performed exceptionally well, Madeira said. It had a 100 percent controllable completion rate after beginning its Boston and Bar Harbor service last July 1. That means it fulfilled its Bar Harbor flight schedule without man-made delays caused by problems such as airplane maintenance problems, other equipment malfunctions or crew shortages, he said.
Its overall completion rate was 98.92 percent, with only a handful of flights delayed or canceled due to weather and other uncontrollable factors, Madeira said.
Pen-Air averaged about 6,882 passengers annually over its three years of flights on the Boston-Bar Harbor commuter route. Last year, Silver carried 2,686 passengers on that route in July 2018 and 3,183 in August. Both months’ figures were the highest numbers of passengers carried during those months in five years, Madeira said.
“They posted these excellent numbers right from the start with very little lead time to market their service,” Madeira said Wednesday. “As an airport, you really can’t ask any more from them.”
The end of Silver’s service in the fall will be followed by the resumption of a significant airport infrastructure improvement paid for almost entirely by a $1.5 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. The airport’s tarmac, runway and taxiway lights will be replaced. The Maine Department of Transportation and the airport are evenly splitting the rest of the $1.7 million project’s cost, Madeira said. The airport’s portion will come out of its $743,000 operating budget, he said.