Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pilot eyeing new air service

With word Bearskin Airlines recently dropped its flights from Fort Frances to Winnipeg, a local pilot wants to know whether the public would use an affordable service to fly to Thunder Bay and Winnipeg if a new one were to start up here.
Jordan Manty is researching the viability of a Fort Frances-based air service—and is looking for input from the community.

Manty recently started a survey, which can be found on Facebook by searching for “Flight Options for Fort Frances.”
The survey asks questions such as do you fly out of Fort Frances to Thunder Bay or Winnipeg, how often do you do so, and what would you expect to pay for a flight to Thunder Bay or Winnipeg?
Manty, who graduated from the flight program at Confederation College in 2011 and will be spending his fourth summer this year flying for Lac La Croix Quetico Air Service-Campbell’s Cabins, said he sees a need for a flying service here.
“What triggered me to do this is I recently found out that Bearskin [had cancelled] their route between Winnipeg and Fort Frances,” noted Manty, adding there’s currently no bus service between Winnipeg and Fort Frances, either.
“Essentially, there is no way to get back and forth between Winnipeg,” he said.
“I saw that as an opportunity to possibly implement something to fill that gap.”
When contacted Monday, Bearskin Airlines said it discontinued flight service between Fort Frances and Winnipeg due to “no demand.”
Manty, the son of Don and Shelly Manty, said he has no illusions his air service strictly would include flying to Winnipeg and Thunder Bay.
“Obviously, that is not going to be the entire business—I would also have to offer charters to business people, especially with lots of people
working out of town but still living here,” he explained.
Manty said several people who already have responded to his survey indicated they live in Fort Frances but, for instance, drive to Red Lake every couple of weeks for work—and it would be preferable if they could fly there instead.
“Or a lot of people drive to Winnipeg and then get on a plane and fly out west to Alberta,” he noted.
“If they could save a few hours of driving and just fly, especially if it’s for an affordable rate, they would be interested in something like that,” he added.
Manty urged people to fill out the survey, noting he’s trying to gauge how much such a flying service would be used and if it would be a worthwhile business venture.
“Obviously, if I’m only going to be able to have two flights a week, it’s probably not going to be very feasible,” he conceded.
“But if I can attract enough interest to be flying two times a day, four times a week, it’s probably worth it, right?
“At this point, I’m just trying to figure out how much business I’m going to be able to attract,” Manty stressed.
Manty is eyeing a Beechcraft Baron 58, which he feels is ideal for business and pleasure travellers alike.
The plane can seat four passengers. If the seats are removed, it can store more cargo.
If signs are positive and Manty goes ahead with the venture, he’s hopeful the service can get off the ground later this year.
Manty said he’s trying to get as much done now to “get the ball rolling” before he flies for Lac La Croix Quetico Air Service this summer.
“Starting an air service, it’s not a fast process,” he remarked. “There’s a lot of paperwork to go through with Transport Canada, for one thing.”
He also noted that arranging financing is no small matter, either.
“I’m thinking, at the very earliest, October or November,” Manty said.

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