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
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
"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
Aero-News will continue to investigate this story.