Saturday, May 26, 2012

Regional Airline Possibly Coming To Pikeville

{Pikeville, Kentucky}...Talks are ongoing with two regional airlines to provide daily service in and out of Pikeville-Pike County Regional Airport. Pikeville City Manager Donavan Blackburn and aviation consultant Luke Schmidt say flights could start in 2013. Schmidt says the airlines could connect with commercial hubs in Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit. Schmidt said a key milestone in the long-term effort to get commercial air service for eastern Kentucky was the awarding of a federal $750,000 small community air service development grant to the Pikeville Airport last year. The grant is being administered by the U. S. Department of Transportation. Schmidt says, "This is a competitive grant. Pikeville competed with 68 other airports, and Pikeville was the smallest of the 68." City Manager Donavan Blackburn says $100,000 of the grant will be used for marketing with the rest subsidizing an airline that provides service. Blackburn says the airline is expected to operate at a loss for at least two years. Schmidt says the region to be served would include 13 counties, of which nine are in eastern Kentucky, three are in southwest Virginia and one is in West Virginia. Schmidt says work is currently being done to complete a letter of commitment, which he anticipates would be submitted sometime this fall, with commercial air service becoming available in and out of Pikeville Airport nine to 12 months thereafter. Blackburn says the airport does not have a fire station. The requirement for fire protection would be met by having a Pikeville City fire truck and crew of firefighters arrive at the airport one-half hour before a scheduled aircraft arrival and remain until one-half hour after the plane's departure.