A new airline for the Jamestown Airport is ready for takeoff, but Chautauqua County officials need approval from the Department of Transportation first.
County Executive Vince Horrigan's announcement that one of two bidding carriers has been chosen to provide services in replacement of Silver Airways is the latest in a string of good news for the airport.
Additionally, the new airline's connecting hub will be Pittsburgh, Pa., rather than Cleveland, Ohio, where Silver Airways has connected passengers in the past.
Silver announced termination of services in February, effective in May, due to losses. In April, two new companies submitted bids to provide services.
After much community input from a team composed of local representatives headed by Dave Sanctuary, former acting manager of county parks and airports, Horrigan confirmed a carrier has been chosen - pending DOT approval.
The DOT will make the final decision as to which bidding company is most suitable. The decision will play a vital role in how much federal Essential Air Service funding the airport receives.
"The DOT tends to put a lot of weight into community input, but I don't want to pre-judge how their decision will be made," Horrigan said. "We have narrowed it down, from our perspective, as to which one is the best choice. I'm optimistic that we'll continue to have passenger service out of Jamestown and that's very important to us."
Horrigan added that both of the bidders use Pittsburgh as a connecting destination, and it was not a deciding factor in the decision.
It has yet to be determined when the new contract will take effect, but the DOT must make a decision by May 28.
"I would say the process will continue over the next couple of months," Horrigan said. "I can't provide a specific time as to when the DOT will make a decision."
For now, business continues as usual at the airport, according to George Spanos, director of public facilities, who said passenger numbers remain steady.
Spanos has stepped in for Sanctuary, who was acting manager of parks and airports since March. Spanos will act as manager of parks and airports until a new manager is found.
"Input from the community has indicated that Pittsburgh as a new destination has been received positively," Spanos said. "We do hope that will translate into higher passenger counts."
Sen. Charles Schumer announced last week that $1.9 million in federal EAS funding would be designated for the Jamestown Airport. Depending on the new carrier, the amount could increase or decrease.
"There is no update on the current amount, and there will be no update until the DOT makes a decision as to which bidder they award the contract to," Spanos said.
As required by the current EAS contract, Silver Airways must continue to provide service for Jamestown until the new carrier takes over.