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Task Force Votes To Stay With Cape Air

All signs are that Cape Air Airlines will continue as the Essential Air Service carrier in Montana for at least the next four years.

The Essential Air Service Task Force unanimously agreed to recommend Cape Air Airlines continue the service during a meeting held in Billings earlier this month.

“We felt that our best interest is if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” task force member Walt McNutt said. “What we’re really happy with is the ability to work with them.”

McNutt noted this is the fourth air carrier that he has dealt with as a member of the task force. He said Cape Air provides the best communications.

“They are certainly very open and they listen,” McNutt said.

He noted that Cape Air has dealt with challenges doing the past few years including the pandemic, a pilot shortage and transitioning to different planes.

“It’s not just Cape Air. The whole industry is really struggling finding enough pilots right now,” he added.

McNutt noted that both Boutique Airlines and Southern Airways Express offered excellent presentations during the meeting.

Essential Air Services in Montana provides coverage to the communities of Wolf Point, Sidney, Glendive, Glasgow and Havre.

A proposed bill in Congress regarding EAS was going to require that local communities needed to provide 5 percent of the funding. That proposal, however, has been stopped.

“That would kill the program,” McNutt said of the local funding.

He said that Cape Air sometimes is forced to cancel flights for safety reasons because of weather conditions. The Montana flights by Cape Air have a solid 97 percent completion rate.

“Right now, we’re really in pretty good shape,” McNutt said.

After the task force’s recommendation, the U.S. Department of Transportation has to make the final approval. The new four-year contract will start on Jan. 1, 2024.

“They [Cape Air] are really serious about serving Montana,” McNutt said. “They have a real commitment.”

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