Flights to W. Md. to begin Nov. 29

State to subsidize N.H. airlines' three daily commuter runs

November 01, 2001|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

State-subsidized air service between Baltimore and two Western Maryland cities will begin on Nov. 29, four weeks behind schedule, according to the carrier.

The commuter flights between Baltimore-Washington International and Cumberland airports, with a stop in Hagerstown, were to have begun today. Officials in those cities expect the service to be an economic development boon.

Boston-Maine Airways is still awaiting the necessary certification by the Federal Aviation Administration to begin. The airline's 19- passenger turboprop planes can currently carry passengers on charter flights, but it does not have permission for regularly scheduled routes.

"There are just potholes, for lack of a better word. We get a little closer every day," said Daniel Fortnam, vice president of sales and marketing for the airline.

Fortnam said obtaining certification requires FAA representatives to ride along on demonstration flights, and there have been problems "getting the players all together."

He said he did not know whether any of the scheduling problems were related to the Sept. 11 hijackings that led the air industry to re-evaluate security measures.

The state has set aside $2.25 million for the new service through June 2002, and an additional $2 million is expected to be approved if the flights are successful. The money will be used to help the airline get established, but won't cover the total cost of providing the flights.

The Maryland Aviation Administration is offering Cumberland and Hagerstown $30,000 apiece in matching funds to help market the service.

Round-trip flights are due to run three times a day during the week, and twice on Saturdays and Sundays. Flying time between stops is just under 30 minutes.

The Greater Cumberland Regional Airport has not had commercial flights since September, when U.S. Airways dropped its Pittsburgh routes as part of plans - in place before Sept. 11 - to reduce its turboprop fleet. Cumberland has not had passenger flights to Baltimore since a small carrier pulled out about 10 years ago, said airport manager John Jennings.

The Cumberland-Baltimore and Hagerstown-Baltimore routes will begin with an introductory, round-trip fare of $59. After that, the airline will "determine what the market will bear. It has to be a value for them," Fortnam said.

Boston-Maine is affiliated with the new Pan American Airways, which was created in 1998 after the owners of New Hampshire-based Guilford Transportation Industries acquired the name.

The original Pan Am World Airways shut down in 1991.

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