Modesto’s hopes for commercial passenger flights to Los Angeles have been grounded.
The city had been working with Wyoming-based Great Lakes Airlines on the service, but Modesto Airport Manager Mark Germanowski said the airline has suspended its plans to bring flights to Modesto, Stockton and Carlsbad.
Germanowski said in an email to city officials that a Great Lakes official said the primary reasons were the ongoing pilot shortage and the airline’s not obtaining an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration regarding pilots who could fly Beech 1900 aircraft that can seat as many as 19 passengers.
“I will continue to stay in touch with Great Lakes,” Germanowski said in his email, “but there is no short term plan for them to expand into new markets like Modesto.”
Modesto has not had passenger flights since June 2014, when SkyWest Airlines ended its daily flights to and from San Francisco, citing “poor performance in the market.” The flights were subject to delays and cancellations because of fog and other problems at San Francisco International Airport, causing passengers to miss their connecting flights.
“It’s still going to be a difficult challenge to attract someone here,” Germanowski said. “The pilot shortage is a real thing, and unfortunately it is only to get worse. We still face the same challenges.”
Great Lakes had been looking at providing three daily round-trip flights to Los Angeles. Germanowski said Great Lakes had planned to start with Beech 1900 aircraft before making the transition to Embraer EMB 120 Brasilias — twin-turboprop airplanes that seat 30 passengers — within 90 days of starting the flights.
Great Lakes also has undergone a management shakeup, with President Chuck Howell leaving the airline. Howell was at Modesto Airport in January for a meet-and-greet with potential pilots and spoke to the Airport Advisory Committee.
Howell said then that Great Lakes had to slash flights and service because of the pilot shortage but was close to becoming profitable and was looking to expand. He said his airline had reduced its operations from serving 50 cities three years ago to about a dozen.
Great Lakes Chairman Doug Voss did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316