Commonwealth Journal

October 18, 2012

Commercial airline considers Somerset

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

“There is a company with airline service interested in this market.”
Martin Shearer, executive director of Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation, confirmed the interest this week when asked about the status of a survey conducted by the foundation to determine need for commuter airline service at Lake Cumberland Regional Airport.
“The survey results are still be analyzed by the potential carrier,” said Shearer. “It’s still moving forward ... we haven’t been kicked out ... but I understand the timetable has been pushed back.”
Name of the airline service interested in this market has not been revealed, but Shearer said the company has service in several small markets and has “ ... been around a long time.” He said the company is interested in establishing connection with a major airline hub and flying out of Somerset.
Shearer believes the region needs commercial airline service and is continuing to spearhead an effort to reestablish commuter service between the local airport and a major airline hub.
The renewed regional initiative has set two strategic goals:
• Recruit a regional airline that is aligned with a major carrier such as American, Delta or US Airways.
• Establish service to a major connecting hub.
A Florida-based commuter airline operated out of Lake Cumberland Regional Airport, first to Nashville and then to Washington, D.C., for a little more than two years. It was subsidized with about $900,000 obtained by Congressman Hal Rogers from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $100,000 in local matching funds. No sustaining local source of funding developed before the federal funds were exhausted and the airline shut down February 19, 2010.
As part of its efforts to restore air service at Lake Cumberland Regional, the development foundation retained Louisville-based consulting firm L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, to assist in the effort. The consulting firm updated the market profile that shows the airport will serve 15 Kentucky counties with a combined population of 384,000 people. Luke B. Schmidt is consultant to the foundation.
Shearer said the development foundation’s efforts to recruit a commuter airline service is part of a broader effort by Somerset-Pulaski Convention & Visitors Bureau, airport board and city and county governments. “We’re just spearheading it ... we’re happy to do it,” Shearer said.
Lake Cumberland Regional Airport is jointly owned by Somerset and Pulaski County. It is operated by an airport board chaired by Don Bandy. Members are John Tuttle, Richard Vanhook, Delynn Gibson, David Morris and John Hicks. The airport operation is financed with a 2 percent allocation from the county’s 1 cent occupational tax, amounting to about $150,000 a year.
The J.T. Wilson Field runway is 5,800 feet, about as long as it can be at its location. The runway can’t be extended toward the west because of U.S. 27, and on the east end toward Ferguson there is a big drop-off.
 An Instrument Landing System (ILS) provides lateral and vertical guidance necessary to fly a precision approach. A $3 million, spacious, glass-bedecked terminal is an added attraction when a plane and its passengers touch down.