Third time charmed? Appalachian Air sets new takeoff date; web site goes live (Pikeville) Appalachian News-Express

Third time charmed?

Article was originally posted on September 19, 2014 to the (Pikeville) Appalachian News-Express web site

Appalachian Air sets new takeoff date; web site goes live

Appalachian Air may soon be ready to fly.

Officials announced Thursday that the long languishing commercial air service project is set to take off on Monday, Oct. 27, and begin daily round-trip commercial operation to Nashville from the Pikeville-Pike County Regional Airport. It was also announced that the Appalachian Air website is now live and bookings for flights will begin in October.

The new launch date is the third date set by organizers of the project since the project was announced, but during Thursday’s announcement event, officials said they are now ready for Appalachian Air’s wheels to leave the ground. The new date comes after months of delays officials have blamed on government regulations and processes.

One of those officials was Consultant Luke Schmidt, who has worked on the commercial air service project since its inception. He said the service will launch on the new date.

“No more delays,” Schmidt said. “You’re not going to hear us two weeks from now say, ‘Uh oh, we can’t do it.’ We’re here, the plane’s coming and so we better be ready, and we will be.”

Schmidt said the first revenue flight will depart from Pikeville on the morning of Oct. 27 and the first inbound flight will arrive in Pikeville that evening. The plane, he said, will overnight in Pikeville for the next morning’s flight.

However, one of the major selling points of the service — “sterile” baggage service from Pikeville to the customer’s ultimate destination — may not be available on the launch date. Schmidt said the plans for baggage screening by the Transportation Safety Administration have been submitted to the TSA’s office in Louisville and they are reviewing the plans. They have not yet been approved, however, and the organizers of Appalachian Air are still waiting on that approval. Schmidt added, though, that the process is progressing.

“They are working that issue through right now and they’re well aware of our start date and I’m told they are working to try to and accommodate us for that,” he said. “The other part is the airport security plan, which we drafted … we submitted that back about the first of the year (and) that’s been accepted.

“So, half of it’s done, the other half is almost done,” he said.

David Lucas, the president of consulting firm DL Group, said Public Charters, for whom his company performing consultation work, is committed to launching the service on the new launch date.

“Oct. 27th; we mean it, we’re ready to go,” he said.

Lucas said delays in the project have made the public skeptical to promises the service is ready to take off. He added, however, that planned promotions — including a limited time 50 percent off promotion which will be active upon the service’s launch — will help in letting the public know the service is ready to go.

“It’s been a long time in coming,” Lucas said. “You’ve been hearing about it … We want to show you and we have a number of promotional programs that we’re going to roll out one right after the other.”