Reinstating commuter airline service at Lake Cumberland Regional Airport is slow to takeoff because of failure to get a $1 million grant from Small Community Air Service Development, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“We didn’t get the money,” said Martin Shearer, executive director of Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation. “It went to somebody else.”
“We have not really made any progress,” said Shearer. “We don’t know at this point how and when we will get the money.” However, he said the federal grant is an annual thing and the local airport can apply again this summer.
Failure to get the $1 million grant apparently has muted early-on optimism following a regional survey of airline travelers that indicates a robust market at Lake Cumberland Regional Airport. The study indicates a potential annual enplanement of 142,166 passengers who would use airline service in and out of the Somerset airport.
“This is not just Pulaski County ... this is the region,” said Luke B. Schmidt, consultant for the study. Schmidt called airline service a tremendous trigger for economic development.
Shearer still 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.
“As of today, we still have the proposal ... I hope it will still be here when we get the money,” Shearer said candidly.
The proposal, as described earlier by Shearer and Schmidt, seems just what the doctor ordered for Somerset and surrounding region. 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.