Cape Air has officially been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the provider for Essential Air Service in Sidney and four other eastern Montana communities. In late July, the Essential Air Service Task Force recommended Cape Air, based out of Hyannis, Mass., to provide the service.
The scheduled takeover date for Cape Air is Dec. 1, but airport manager Bill Henderson said it may come sooner. “The transition could come quicker than that. It will be sooner than later.”
Henderson said Cape Air has aircrafts ready but is still working on hiring pilots. The nine-passenger plane will fly from Sidney to Billings five times during weekdays. Cost for the flights is $49 each way. Currently, Silver Airways makes three daily flights with 19-passenger planes. If someone books a flight with Silver Airways, and Cape Air takes over prior to that date, the ticket will be transferred to Cape Air.
“They are going to adjust depending on the need,” Henderson said of Cape Air. “They are very professional and up front as far as communicating.”
Walt McNutt, Essential Air Service Task Force member, said he will be happier about Cape Air taking over the flights once he knows for certain the government will continue to fund the flights. The federal government has already cut the flights to Miles City and Lewistown.
“I don’t know what the government is going to do,” McNutt said. “Cape Air has got the contract for sure, but what we’re waiting for is the funding.”
McNutt, however, is thankful U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has been a strong supporter of the program for many years. “Our chances are pretty good,” McNutt said.
When checking on Cape Air’s flights on the East Coast, Henderson said Cape Air has a good history of having on-time flights.
Also under Essential Air Service are Glendive, Glasgow, Havre and Wolf Point.
According to the company’s website, Cape Air operates a fleet of more than 66 Cessna 402s with up to 850 flights per day. The employee-owned company has been recognized for its outstanding customer service. It features ticket and baggage agreements with most major airlines.