KINGMAN – Henry Gellerman of Prescott confidently believes there’s demand for air service from small towns in Northern Arizona to Las Vegas and Scottsdale.
It’s just a matter of finding investors, leasing the planes, making connections with the airports and developing an iPhone application for customers to schedule their flights.
Gellerman wants to fly a nine-passenger Cessna 208 Grand Caravan from Prescott to the North Las Vegas airport with a stop in Kingman to pick up passengers “on demand.”
He’s not looking for the government to subsidize flights through the Essential Air Service program that was a complete flop when Great Lakes Airlines operated twice-weekly flights from Kingman to Denver and Los Angeles.
“(President) Trump wants to eliminate waste. Well, there’s a lot of waste in Essential Air Service,” Gellerman said.
The program started in the 1970s and ballooned from $50 million in subsidies in 1997 to more than $300 million in 2017, he pointed out.
Gellerman has a Washington attorney and economist on board for the startup airline, as well as a Boeing 737 pilot. He would fly FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) 135, which regulates charter private aircraft.
They’re planning on starting an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $2 million to $5 million for the airline business. They’re also building an informational campaign website.
Gellerman said he will lease the aircraft to preserve operations capital and derive tax benefits.
The Cessna 208 Grand Caravan is the most comfortable, economical aircraft appropriate for operating at an hourly cost range where fares would be attractive to “regular folks,” Gellerman said.
He will not be wholly reliant on EAS subsidies, which he believes have a “questionable future.”
Bob Riley, economic development director at Kingman Airport Authority, isn’t sure Gellerman’s plan will fly, but said he’d certainly be interested in meeting with him to discuss needs for terminal counter area, baggage handling and secured areas.
“Even though it sounds like the Uber of the skies, I would be interested in learning what FAA certificate he will be operating under, what his insurance capabilities are and, based on his certificate, what additional services we need to provide,” Riley said.
North Las Vegas is not preferred by air travelers looking to connect to other airlines through McCarran International Airport, so Riley would also like to know how Gellerman is going to transport people from one airport to the other.
Essential Air Service was specifically intended to get passengers into the national transportation network, Riley noted. Great Lake’s EAS program in Kingman was eliminated by the U.S. Department of Transportation due to lack of enplanements, he said.
Flying out of Northern Arizona and picking up passengers in Kingman sounds expensive, said John Dougherty, Kingman city manager. But it’s another option and worth a shot.
“I hope this works out well for them and it ends up being dependable,” Dougherty said. “My one and only experience flying out of Kingman was a disaster. Hopefully, this private on-demand service will stick to schedules and be at a reasonable price.”