MASON CITY | The Mason City Airport Commission on Monday put off making a recommendation on what commercial airline to recommend to serve North Iowa.
The board was expected to choose between the two airlines that submitted proposals to the Federal Aviation Administration -- Great Lakes, which served the airport for less than two years before suspending service earlier this year because of a pilot shortage; and Air Choice One, a St. Louis-based operation making its first proposal to serve Mason City.
When Great Lakes suspended its service, the FAA put out requests for proposals for service to Mason City. Great Lakes and Air Choice One were the only applicants.
In its proposal, Great Lakes offered flights to both Minneapolis and Chicago. Air Choice One is offering service to Chicago and St. Louis.
The Mason City commission will meet in special session at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, with the intent of making a recommendation.
Board Chairwoman Joni Dunn said Air Choice One made a presentation to some commission members Monday morning that warranted further consideration.
Also, she said, Great Lakes had informed the board it wants to change its proposal to make it more appealing.
Air service to Fort Dodge is involved in the proposals, and the Fort Dodge Airport Commission has also delayed its recommendation, seeking more time to study its proposals, said Airport Manager Pam Osgood.
"Considering all of these things, it makes sense for our board to have the time to take in all the new information in order to make an informed recommendation," she said.
The FAA has the final say on which carrier is chosen.
Air Choice One typically uses 8-to-10 passenger Cessna Grand Caravan or Piper Navajo planes. It has proposed flights from Mason City to O'Hare Field, Chicago, 18 round trips per week; and Mason City to Fort Dodge to St. Louis, six round trips per week.
Great Lakes has proposed four round trips per day to Minneapolis on a Beechcraft 1900 aircraft. An alternative would be four round trips per day to Chicago.
In its proposal to the FAA, Great Lakes said it was forced to suspend service to Mason City because of a pilot shortage.
Its new proposal is predicated on the approval of the FAA to allow pilots to operate nine-seat Beech 1099D aircraft while the airline recruits and trains other pilots. Service would use the larger 19-seat planes as soon as the company had enough certified pilots for planes that size.
Either or both of the proposals could change, depending on new information the companies provide to the board.