MASON CITY | Two airlines have submitted proposals to serve Mason City Municipal Airport, including Great Lakes Airlines, which suspended service abruptly earlier this year because of a pilot shortage.
The other proposal is from Air Choice One, a St. Louis-based airline that would provide service to Chicago and St. Louis.
In its latest proposal, Great Lakes is proposing flights to both Minneapolis and Chicago.
The Federal Aviation Administration has the final say on what airline, if any, will serve Mason City. Service to small municipal airports is dependent on federal subsidies from the Essential Air Service program administered by the FAA.
The Mason City Airport Commission will meet on Monday, March 10, to make a recommendation to the FAA, said Airport Director Pam Osgood.
"The commission will have to weigh the pros and cons of both proposals," she said. "There's a lot of soul-searching in this, deciding what is best for our citizens and for our airport."
She said while the FAA makes the final determination, it wants the airport commission's recommendation because it doesn't want to approve something the city doesn't want.
Osgood said she will ask for letters of recommendation from the mayors of Mason City and Clear Lake in support of the commission's decision.
Osgood said she will meet with FAA officials in Washington next week when she participates in the Mason City Chamber of Commerce's annual trip to Washington to lobby on local issues.
Here is a look at both proposals:
- Air Choice One: Cessna Grand Caravan or Piper Navajo planes, Mason City to O'Hare Field, Chicago, 18 round trips per week; Cessna Grand Caravan or Piper Navajo, Mason City to Fort Dodge to St. Louis, six round trips per week.
- Great Lakes: Four round trips per day to Minneapolis on a Beechcraft 1900 aircraft. Alternative: Four round trips per day to Chicago.
In its proposal to the FAA, Air Choice One recognizes what it calls "the difficult circumstances" that Mason City has experienced recently in its air service.
It points out that Jonesboro, Ark., faced potential expulsion from the Essential Air Service program because of low passenger levels, but recovered when Air Choice One became the service provider.
The planes proposed to be used by Air Choice One are generally eight- or 10-seat planes.
In its proposal to the FAA, Great Lakes acknowledges 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 in the process of recruiting and training pilots in an effort to replenish our staff of qualified pilots."
"It would be expected that the re-installation of the additional 10 seats, allowing for utilization of all 19 seats, would occur as soon as pilot experience allows for the issuance of restricted ATP certificates."
Each proposal contains estimates of revenues and expenses for the various proposals from the two airlines.