A start-up airline is cementing plans to rekindle commercial passenger service from the North Olympic Peninsula to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after a 7½-year hiatus, a company official said Wednesday.
A purchase-and-sale agreement for three nine-seat twin-engine Cessna aircraft is in the process of being finalized with the seller as part of a plan to provide four round-trip flights a day from William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles, Dash Air Shuttle co-founder Clint Ostler said.
A fifth flight is being considered, he said.
“We sent it their way this morning,” Ostler said in an interview.
Ostler is a vice president of Embark Aviation, a Washington, D.C.-based airline management consulting company that will manage Dash, the top officials of which consist of Embark employees.
“Hopefully, we’ll know in a couple of days if they are going to accept the offer,” Ostler said.
“We are just waiting for their legal team to review it.”
Ostler, who has been making the rounds of Clallam County business groups during the last few weeks, spoke Wednesday to online participants at the Clallam County Economic Development Council’s weekly Coffee with Colleen online get-together, coordinated by EDC Executive Director Colleen McAleer.
McAleer also is a commissioner with the Port of Port Angeles, which operates Fairchild.
Ostler told attendees that the start-up, Tukwila-based company may substitute a planned 8:30 p.m. return trip from Seattle with a later and much-desired 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. flight to serve later Sea-Tac arrivals.
Rental car operator Jack Heckman said at the meeting he will provide rental vehicles to passengers at the west Port Angeles airfield parking lot, where spaces for his Budget and Avis cars were marked off last week.
Parking will be free for passengers. McAleer said the port has yet to set parking time limits for Dash passengers.
Clallam Transit General Manager Kevin Gallacci said at the meeting that the agency will consider reviving bus stops at the terminal, where air service was discontinued by Kenmore Air in November 2014.
Ostler hopes to begin selling tickets by the end of June for a first flight by mid-September.
The terminal has undergone “a huge facelift” that includes relocating Rite Bros. Aviation into the terminal, Port Airport Manager Dan Gase said.
A room that fronts the airfield that was used several years ago for pre-flight federal Transportation Security Agency (TSA) check-ins has been converted into a public meeting room that Gase said would house a seating area if a restaurant is reestablished at the terminal.
“We are really in favor of eventually getting TSA back if, one, the airline is successful, and TSA is comfortable working with Dash Air,” he said, adding the meeting room would be made available to TSA, if needed.
A ticket counter will be built and luggage weighed before passengers board the aircraft, Gase said.
Ostler said the weight limit for luggage, most of which will be loaded in the Cessna’s nose, will be about 38 pounds, about equal to a standard large bag and a carry-on bag. Seats will be 17 inches across from left arm rest to right arm rest and have small storage compartments in the back.
“There’s only so much room on the aircraft,” Ostler said.
Patricia McCauley of InsideOut Solutions in Sequim recalled a port study 11 years ago that cited two serious deficiencies: time-consuming shuttle-bus trips from Paine Field to and from Sea-Tac and no transportation, public or private, from Sea-Tac to Port Angeles after 7:30 p.m.
“Going out was easy, getting back was impossible,” McCauley said.
“I’m so excited you recognize the fact that the East Coast flights come back late.”
Ostler said after the meeting that Dash had already moved the last evening flight up from about 6-8:30 p.m. and that shifting the time even later to 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. might be doable.
“It sounds like that is really desirable,” he said. “We’re just going to have to figure out how that works.”
He said Dash would start posting online notices this week to attract pilot applications. The company expects to draw interest from younger pilots just starting their careers and older pilots limited by larger-airline age restrictions that prevent them from flying commercially after they are 65.
Flights are expected to land, at least initially, at the Signature Flight Services terminal at Sea-Tac, where passengers will take shuttles to the main terminal.
Oslter said fares will cost between $79 and $159 one way, with an average ticket of $95 to $99.
Dash’s efforts will be aided financially by $333,000 in revenue guarantees awarded by the port and consisting of $133,000 in port general funds and $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation Small Community Air Service Development Program.
It will be controlled by port officials. They will draw down the fund by covering revenue losses incurred by Dash that prevent it from breaking even because of unfilled seats.
The port’s money will be tapped first.
Port officials also waived $19,814 in landing fees and rent.
Ostler said once the planes are purchased, Dash must prove to the FAA that the airline has proper training manuals and maintenance procedures to ensure safety, a process expected to take six to eight weeks.
“It’s kind of like a formality,” he said of the upgrade in Dash’s certification.
McCauley noted she recently paid $93 for a week of parking at Sea-Tac, an amount within easy reach of an average Dash fare. That doesn’t count gas to the airport and time spent getting there.
“If you can make quick transfers, etc., and everything you say here comes true,” McCauley told Ostler, “you won’t have any problems getting anybody on these airplanes.”