Scottsbluff airport joins Kearney, North Platte in retaining airline for a year of service

IndustriesAssociated Press

The Scottsbluff airport has joined airports in Kearney and North Platte in reaching new, one-year agreements with Great Lakes Airlines for government-subsidized flights.

The Scottsbluff agreement runs through February 2016.

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All three airports had initially selected Beachwood, Ohio-based Aerodynamics Inc., but in January the U.S. Transportation Department said Aerodynamics did not possess "the managerial competency necessary to oversee its current charter and proposed scheduled passenger operations."

Darwin Skelton, who is manager of the Western Nebraska Regional Airport in Scottsbluff, said renewing with Great Lakes was about the only option the airport had.

"This is our only route to go right at the moment," Skelton said. "It keeps the three cities tied together — with Kearney, North Platte, and us — it keeps us together on the same time frame for the bidding process."

That bidding process is expected to resume in fall, Skelton said.

"With three cities you got more bargaining power than if everyone is on their own," he said. "And that way we're all on the same schedule."

The three airports had sought service from other carriers because of reliability problems with Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Great Lakes. Great Lakes officials have said new federal requirement that pilots and co-pilots at small airlines have 1,500 hours of experience, instead of the previously required 500 hours, left it without enough pilots to staff its routes.

Great Lakes has been very consistent and reliable over the past couple of months, Skelton said.