Feds rush search for FD service

The U.S. Department of Transportation is doing an accelerated search for a new airline to serve Fort Dodge Regional Airport.

It is seeking a carrier to replace Great Lakes Airlines, which suspended its Fort Dodge service on Feb. 1. The chosen airline will receive a federal subsidy from the Essential Air Service program.

Proposals from airlines are due to the federal agency on Friday.

Rhonda Chambers, the airport’s director of aviation, has been contacting airlines while the federal officials await proposals.

”We have been actively engaged in contacting and providing our region’s information to potential air carrier candidates with the goal of receiving multiple proposals,” she said Friday.

”The important part is that we’ve spoken with them,” she added.

The airport terminal renovations that will create a new security checkpoint, passenger waiting area and baggage claim may provide an additional incentive for an airline to seek the Fort Dodge business, according to Chambers.

”That is a positive,” she said. ”The airlines like to see communities investing in their terminals because that’s important to the customers.”

The Department of Transportation is seeking proposals from airlines that would link Fort Dodge to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minnesota, Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois or another airport that has numerous connections to other cities.

The number of flights the chosen airline would have to provide would depend on the size of the planes to be used. For example, if planes with 19 seats are to be used, three daily nonstop roundtrip flights would be required.

If bigger planes are to be used, one or two daily nonstop flights would be required.

Although the proposals are due Friday, the names of the airlines that submitted them may not be released by the Department of Transportation for a few days. After the names have been released, the department will seek public comments on the proposals. Chambers said the department usually allows 30 days for public comments.

A timeline for picking a new airline hasn’t been released by federal officials.

Great Lakes Airlines, based in Cheyenne, Wyo., cited a shortage of pilots when it suspended service on Feb. 1. Its flights connected Fort Dodge and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. It was the only airline serving Fort Dodge.

It received an annual $1,798,693 subsidy through the Essential Air Service program to support its Fort Dodge flights. It stopped receiving that money after it suspended service. It also did not receive any federal money for any flights that it canceled before suspending service.

Great Lakes began serving Fort Dodge in April 2012 after it replaced Delta Air Lines.