FD airport leaders ask feds for more time

The Fort Dodge Regional Airport Commission is asking federal officials to allow more time for public comment on proposals from two airlines vying to serve the community.

Friday is the deadline for submitting public comments on the Essential Air Service plans offered by Great Lakes Airlines and Air Choice One Airlines.

Deb Johnson, vice chairwoman of the airport commission, said Tuesday that the panel has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to extend that deadline by at least a week. She said she didn’t know when the department would respond to that request.

Great Lakes abruptly suspended flights between Fort Dodge and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Feb. 1, citing a shortage of pilots.

That airline received a federal subsidy through the Essential Air Service program for its Fort Dodge flights. Now it’s competing with Air Choice One for the chance to return to the local airport with the aid of an even larger federal subsidy.

Federal officials will decide which airline will get the subsidy, worth millions of dollars annually.

Great Lakes Airlines, based in Cheyenne, Wyo., 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 using planes that seat nine people are proposed by the airline.

The airline is requesting a subsidy of $2,577,749 a year. It previously received a subsidy of $1,798,693.

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

It is proposing to use planes that seat between six and 10 people. Six to 18 roundtrips per week are proposed.

Annual subsidies ranging from about $3.6 million to about $7.4 million are requested.

The Essential Air Service program provides money to ensure that airlines continue to serve smaller cities.