Great Lakes wants to come back to FD Dodge

Great Lakes Airlines wants to resume serving Fort Dodge Regional Airport.

The Cheyenne, Wyo., based carrier that suspended service to the airport on Feb. 1 because of a pilot shortage, is one of two airlines seeking a federal Essential Air Service subsidy to help pay for flying to and from Fort Dodge.

The other company is Air Choice One Airlines of St. Louis, Mo.

The U.S. Department of Transportation released the names of the airlines Tuesday.

”We’re reviewing these applications with the carriers and the Department of Transportation,” said Rhonda Chambers, the airport’s director of aviation.

The Department of Transportation will accept comments on the two proposals until March 14.

”The DOT has the final say, but they encourage and support public comments,” Chambers said. ”They want our input.”

Federal officials will pick which airline will receive the subsidy, which will total millions of dollars every year. A timeframe for making that decision wasn’t announced Tuesday.

The Essential Air Service program provides money to ensure that airlines continue to serve smaller cities. Money from that program has been used to support Fort Dodge flights since 2002.

There have been no airline flights to and from Fort Dodge since Great Lakes suspended its service to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minnesota.

Great Lakes Airlines

Great Lakes Airlines is now proposing to link Fort Dodge with either Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport or Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois.

Two or three daily roundtrips are proposed.

The company’s proposal calls for initially using planes that seat nine people instead of the ones with 19 seats that were previously flown in and out of Fort Dodge.

The airline is requesting a federal subsidy of $2,577,749 a year.

Before suspending its local service, the airline received an annual subsidy of $1,798,693.

In the proposal, Great Lakes executives wrote that their plan to serve Fort Dodge again assumes that the Federal Aviation Administration will allow the airline to operate Beech 1900D aircraft with nine seats. A return to using planes with 19 seats would occur after enough experienced pilots are available, according to the proposal.

”We are in the process of recruiting and training pilots in an effort to replenish our staff of qualified pilots,” company leaders wrote in the proposal.

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

Air Choice One

Air Choice One is offering to connect Fort Dodge with Chicago O’Hare International Airport or Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in Missouri.

The company proposes to use Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft which seat 10 passengers or Piper Navajo airplanes that seat six to eight people.

The airline is offering a variety of schedule options that include six to 18 round trips per week. Some of the options include a stop at Mason City. Fort Dodge flights provided by Northwest Airlines and later Delta, included stops at Mason City for decades,

Annual subsidies ranging from about $3.6 million to about $7.4 million are requested by Air Choice One.