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Sat, May 05, 2007

Report: Point2Point Airways Suspends Operations

On-Demand Air Taxi Service Grounded

Efforts to bring an on-demand commuter airline to Bismarck, ND appear to be stalled... at least temporarily... as upstart carrier Point2Point Airways announced this week it has suspended operations indefinitely, due to a lack of revenue and weather-related complications.

The Associated Press reports company founder John Boehle told a city administrator the airline will undergo "a corporate and capital restructuring process," though he did not elaborate on when that might occur.

As Aero-News reported, Point2Point announced in January 2006 it would begin on-call, air taxi service from Bismarck, using a fleet of Cirrus SR22 aircraft. The company received a $1.25 million federal Department of Transportation startup grant in 2005, and the state invested another $200,000.

NASA also contributed approximately $350,000, as part of the agency's Small Aircraft Transportation System program.

In a letter to the city, Boehle said the problem lay in "the inability of the airline to reliably dispatch aircraft due to inclement winter flying conditions." Neither the SR22, nor the Diamond DA42 Twin Stars the company agreed to purchase last year, have been certified yet for flight into known icing (FIKI) conditions.

"The airplanes they chose are great airplanes, they just have their limitations," said Paul Vetter, general manager of Executive Air Taxi Corp., one of 11 competing charter operators offering service in North Dakota. "If you pick an aircraft, at least pick one that's compatible with our weather conditions."

Point2Point Airways offered membership programs, allowing businesses to purchase pre-paid blocks of on-demand travel time. The airline began as a feasibility study conducted by Bismarck business developers and city officials, that spread to include much of the Upper Midwest region.

"It all started with a study on how to we get more seats out of Bismarck," City Commissioner Bill Wocken said. Boehle was a consultant paid by the city to write up the business plan for the new airline service, according to the AP.

Wocken said officials in Bismarck notified the DOT of Point2Point's woes Tuesday. Under terms of the DOT grant, the airline was required to offer service through 2007.

"It is their money tied up in the grant, not the city's," Wocken said. "We notified the funding agency to let them know the issue."

Aero-News will continue to investigate this story.



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