PenAir Ends Air Service to Akutan
Friday, October 26 2012
It’s official: “No more flights of the Goose. The Goose is done.”
That's the word from PenAir president Danny Seybert. As the Dutch Harbor Fisherman first reported, Goose service to Akutan ended over the weekend.
“They took my runway away. I have no place to land," Seybert says.
By runway, Seybert means the concrete seaplane ramp that the Goose used to haul out on. It was modified over the summer to accommodate the hovercraft that runs between Akutan and the new airstrip on Akun Island, and Seybert says those modifications made it unusable for the Goose. For the last few months, the plane has been pulling up on the gravel beach in front of town.
“There’s becoming extreme wear and tear on the landing gear system and if I don’t stop flying it, we’re going to end up with a Goose that’s on the beach over there with no way to get it home," Seybert says.
The abrupt end of service wasn’t announced to the public, although Seybert says he did contact a number of state and federal agencies, including the federal Department of Transportation. The DOT is responsible for finding a new air carrier to serve the route – it’s currently reviewing a proposal from Grant Aviation. Public comment is due on that proposal by November 8. The DOT says it doesn’t plan to move that deadline in light of the new circumstances.
So, passengers wanting to get to Akutan will have to either hitch a ride on a fishing vessel or charter a plane into the new airport. Seybert says anyone with a PenAir ticket will be refunded in full.
“And the mail and freight – as soon as the new service starts to Akun and they figure out how they’re going to get from Akun to Akutan, we will transfer all the freight and mail to a new carrier.”
In the meantime, the Postal Service says it’s looking at other ways to keep the mail moving. Bob Lochmann is the transportation and networks manager for the Alaska region. He says a Grant Aviation charter flight took mail to Akutan on Thursday and that that Postal Service will use any means available to ensure mail delivery until a new air carrier takes over the route.