New airline moving at 'warp speed' to resume Devils Lake flights
Great Lakes Airlines is moving at "warp speed" to begin offering air service this weekend between Devils Lake and the Twin Cities. That's how Great Lakes Airlines CEO Chuck Howell described to Devils Lake officials the behind-the-scenes activity ...
Great Lakes Airlines is moving at "warp speed" to begin offering air service this weekend between Devils Lake and the Twin Cities.
That's how Great Lakes Airlines CEO Chuck Howell described to Devils Lake officials the behind-the-scenes activity to make the quick transition, which was announced Tuesday.
"Great Lakes is bringing people up today to start training the ground crew and people," Devils Lake Airport Manager John Nord said Wednesday.
"It's great news," Mayor Dick Johnson said. "It's very good for our community."
Devils Lake has had extremely limited air service since Dec. 1, when Delta Air Lines switched from turboprop aircraft to regional jets.
In windy weather, the jets require a longer runway than the airport has, causing the cancelation of several flights. Since Dec. 1, only four flights have landed in Devils Lake, according to Nord.
When they couldn't land in Devils Lake, passengers have been bused to and from either Grand Forks International Airport or Jamestown Regional Airport.
Delta announced earlier this year that it would halt service to Devils Lake, Thief River Falls and several other regional cities that are part of the federal Essential Air Service program.
Under EAS regulations, regular airline passenger service is guaranteed to the cities. So, Delta had to continue serving the communities until replacement carriers could take over.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Great Lakes would take over in Thief River Falls.
However, it delayed a decision on Devils Lake because the Great Lakes proposal originally called for ending nonstop service to the Twin Cities. Devils Lake officials rejected the recommendation, because it would have meant passengers would have to stop in Thief River Falls on all flights to or from the Twin Cities.
Great Lakes and DOT officials were in negotiations on potential service to Devils Lake when Delta made its aircraft switch, which put continued service in jeopardy.
North Dakota's congressional delegation and Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced Saturday that Great Lakes would take over the route. However, it was not expected to happen until January.
Then, local, state, federal and airline officials worked over the weekend to advance the timetable, according to Nord.
Great Lakes, which also is replacing Delta in Thief River Falls, will use 19-passenger, Beech 1900D pressurized twin-engine turboprop airplanes. On Friday, the airline plans to fly one of the planes from its base in Cheyenne, Wyo., to Devils Lake for use Saturday morning.
Delta had been using 30-passenger planes. To make up the difference with the smaller planes, DOT is requiring Great Lakes to increase the frequency of daily roundtrip flights from two to three, beginning sometime between February and April.
Total passenger boardings at Devils Lake for the year were at 5,231 as of Nov. 30, up 16.3 percent over the same 11-month period in 2010, according to figures released this week by the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.
The first nonstop flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will leave Devils Lake at 6:50 a.m. Saturday, landing at MSP at 8:25 a.m.
The tentative schedule calls for daily flights Monday through Saturday leaving Devils Lake at 6:50 a.m. and 2:07 p.m., with incoming flights arriving at 1:05 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Great Lakes will continue to use employees from Regional Elite, which has been providing ticketing and baggage service in Devils Lake for Delta.
The airline also is making arrangements for refueling and for hangar space in Devils Lake, where one of the planes will be stored overnight.
Nord said Great Lakes also is in the process of making changes to its reservation system. In the meantime, passengers are being asked to call the Regional Elite staff in Devils Lake for information. The telephone number is (701) 662-8032.
Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send email to email@example.com .