By Jim Anderson
January 25, 2011
IRON MOUNTAIN – Passenger traffic is on the rise at Ford Airport, raising the possibility that Dickinson County could reach the threshold needed to qualify for $1 million in annual airport assistance from the federal government.
A minimum of 10,000 boardings is needed annually to qualify for the non-competitive Federal Aviation Administration assistance. Although Dickinson County hasn’t reached that number since 1996, the Delta Airlines station manager at Ford Airport reported Monday that it may be within reach in 2011.
“Our goal is to make 10,000,” said Eric Frankhauser. “I think we’re on the right path.”
Addressing the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners, Frankhauser reported 590 boardings so far in January, an increase of 40 percent from a year ago.
Dickinson County fell more than 2,000 passengers short of 10,000 enplanements in 2010, but both leisure and business traffic has been on a steady uptick, Frankhauser said.
Attractive fares and reliable service are key factors, he said. The airline has also gotten a boost from Oldenburg Group Inc., which is building a new technology center in Kingsford.
In June 2010, Mesaba Airlines was re-selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation as Ford Airport’s subsidized carrier for another two years.
Using Detroit and Minneapolis as its airport hubs, the Eagan, Minn.-based airline operates as Delta Connection and receives a combined annual subsidy of $4.18 million to serve both Iron Mountain-Kingsford and Escanaba under the Essential Air Service program.
In July, Mesaba was acquired by Pinnacle Airlines Corp. of Memphis, Tenn. Previously, Mesaba was a wholly owned subsidiary of industry giant Delta Air Lines.
Delta Connection uses 32-seat Saab 340 aircraft for its U.P. service.
Pinnacle, which also operates as Delta Connection, is scheduled to assume operations in June, Frankhauser said. He acknowledged there has been speculation about a shift towards regional jets, but said the industry remains in flux.
Commissioner Joe Stevens noted that the Essential Air Service program is also subject to ongoing pressures.
Recently, the Delta County Airport in Escanaba reported that it could reach 10,000 enplanements for 2010, depending on its final tally for charter flights.
Source: THE DAILY NEWS