Valley closer to taking to the skies

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EL CENTRO – The Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to recommend Boutique Air to provide the Essential Air Services in Imperial County following the unexpected closure of Seaport Airlines on January 15.

The board viewed and listened to presentations from three airlines, Boutique Air, Mokulele Airlines and Great Lakes Aviation during Tuesday’s special board meeting.

District 3 Supervisor Michael Kelley said all three presentations were very attractive and that the decision was going to be tough to make.

Boutique Air submitted a proposal at an annual EAS subsidiary cost of $3,817,747 which includes three round trips per day to Los Angeles Airport and one round trip a day to Phoenix Arizona with an average fare of $75.00 per person.

Boutique Air was founded by Shawn Simpson and has been providing air charter to private groups and individuals since 2007. Boutique Air is headquartered in San Francisco, California. Boutique Air operates a modern fleet of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

The Pilatus PC-12 is a product of Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. The company, founded in 1939, has built more than 1,200 PC-12 aircraft since the first model’s introduction in 1994. Recognized for its world-class engineering and safety ratings, the PC-12 continues to be a very popular choice with charter and scheduled air carriers.

The aircraft has many amenities designed to make the flying experience as comfortable as it gets, including leather seats, power outlets, and an enclosed lavatory.

In addition to the quiet design to the PC-12 out of the factory, Boutique Air added custom soundproofing to its aircraft cabin, making it one of the quietest cabins.

“I am very impressed with the aircraft presented by Boutique Air,” said Michael Kelley, District 3 Supervisor.

The PC-12 has a capability of flying at an altitude of 30,000 feet resulting in less turbulence. A feature Supervisor Castillo found very persuasive in his recommendation.

“What sold me on this airline is the fact that they fly at a higher elevation making it a huge factor because of the air turbulence in the Valley,” said Castillo. “The fact that they can connect to Phoenix and the terminal they utilize in LAX makes it easier for us to connect with Southwest Airlines when traveling to Sacramento.”

Mokulele Airlines submitted two proposals. Proposal one was at an annual EAS subsidiary cost of $2,240,634 which includes 24 round trips per week to Los Angeles Airport with an average fare of $144.14 per person. Proposal two was based on obtaining both the Imperial County and the city of Visalia’s contract at an annual EAS subsidiary cost of $2,240,634 which also includes 24 trips per week to Los Angeles Airport with an average fare of $73.86 per person.

Mokulele Airlines was founded in 1994 and is currently owned by Ron Hansen, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based Transpac Aviation Inc. Based out of Hawaii, Mokulele Airlines offers approximately 120 flights per day, servicing approximately 20,000 to 25,000 passengers per month. With a fleet of fifteen aircrafts, Mokulele Airlines provides services in nine communities within Hawaii and four additional in the northeastern Pennsylvania area.

Great Lake Aviation submitted a proposal at an annual EAS subsidiary cost of $2,654,475 which includes two round trips per day to Los Angeles Airport seven days per week with an average fare of $59.95 per person.

Founded in 1977, Great Lakes Aviation is an American regional airline operating domestic scheduled and charter services whose corporate headquarters is in Cheyenne, Wyoming, with a hub at Denver International Airport.  Great Lakes Aviation is a leading scheduled air service provider currently serving 22 communities in nine states throughout the mid-west and western region of the United States.

“We know the situation and how critical it is and therefore we need to get this done as soon as possible,” said Michael Kelley.

Imperial County Executive Officer Ralph Cordova Jr. assured the board he had done his due diligence  in contacting references of the airlines prior to Tuesday’s presentation.

“I contacted officials in the city of Merced who assured me they were very pleased with the services Boutique Air is currently offering the community,” said Cordova.

El Centro’s City Manager Ruben Duran approached the board and said the city of El Centro had reviewed all three proposals in addition to researching their history and voted in favor of recommending Mokulele Airlines to service the County.

Imperial City Councilman Mark Gran also approached the board and said they too were in favor of recommending Mokulele Airlines.

“I’m sure when the Department of Transportation sees what Boutique has to offer they will be able to see the all of the good things Boutique has to offer to Imperial County,” said Castillo.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will ultimately make the final decision that take place in early March.

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