Commonwealth Journal

Local News

October 6, 2013

Subsidy needed to launch commuter air service

Somerset —

“If we can raise the money we have the service.”
The current status of commuter airline service in and out of Lake Cumberland Regional Airport was so verbalized by Martin Shearer, executive director, Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation, and Luke B. Schmidt, consultant for the airport project.
The development foundation has in hand a written proposal for airline service submitted by two companies: Public Charters Inc., of Avoca, Pennsylvania, and Corporate Flight Management of Smyrna, Tennessee. The two companies propose to operate daily (including weekends) nonstop round-trip flights between the Somerset airport and Nashville International Airport. 
The aircraft would be a 19-passenger British Aerospace BAE Jetstream J31turboprop. The Jetstream J31 is a state-of-the-art, high performance pressurized aircraft with stand-up cabin, lavatory and two pilots. It cruises at 265 mph with a service ceiling of 25,000 feet, above most weather. The Jetstream can easily take off and land on the 5,800-foot runway at the Somerset airport, Schmidt noted.
The flight to Nashville is about 45 minutes. It would connect to flights in Nashville operated by nine airlines, including low-cost Southwest Airlines. The are 49 nonstop destinations out of the Nashville airport.
Martin and Schmidt emphasized the “critical juncture” in what they describe as “ ... a very, very valid proposal” is “right now we don’t have the money.” All airlines, opening a new hub, lose money for a time after start-up. Schmidt estimates it would take a year for a local commuter service to become profitable and the local airport, the community or somebody would have to cover the losses.
Shearer said the development foundation has applied for a $1 million grant from Small Community Air Service Development, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation. If the money becomes available, a contract for a minimum revenue guarantee would be made with the carrier to make up losses established by audit,” Schmidt said. “We would only make up verified losses in revenue,” Shearer emphasized.

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