Rather than risk losing airline service, City Council opts for single-engine aircraft from Southern Airways Express

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The Cessna Grand Caravan will be Quincy's link between Chicago and St. Louis if the U.S. DOT gives its approval. | David Adam

QUINCY — Quincy Mayor Mike Troup didn’t want to see the city lose having twin-engine airplanes provide service to Quincy Regional Airport.

However, he thought it was better than the alternative.

“If we reject both (airline proposals) and go out for more bids, it’s a slim likelihood that you’re going to get a twin-engine carrier to submit (another proposal),” Troup told aldermen at Monday’s meeting of the Quincy City Council. “Without that, we have a chance of having our airport go dark without any or services.

“The worst situation is to lose all airline service at this point.”

Troup was pleased to see aldermen vote to accept the recommendation of the Aeronautics Committee and interim airport director Gabriel Hanafin to recommend to the U.S. Department of Transportation that Southern Airways Express of Palm Beach, Fla., provide essential air service at Quincy Regional Airport. Troup hopes to get official confirmation from the Department of Transportation next month.

After agreeing to a four-year, $10.8 million contract in September to be Quincy’s EAS provider, Cape Air notified the U.S. Department of Transportation in May of its intent to end passenger air service in Quincy.

Southern Airways Express and Boutique Air out of San Francisco made presentations on Aug. 2. Southern Airways Express proposed a four-year deal to provide Quincy with service, utilizing Cessna Grand Caravan planes with two pilots. Boutique proposed a two-year deal with two pilots aboard Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.  Neither airline offered a twin-engine plane option.

Aldermen selected the Southern Airways Express contract that calls for 18 weekly flights each to St. Louis and Chicago with an average fare of $64. Mark Cestari, chief commercial officer for Southern Airways Express, told aldermen during his Aug. 2 presentation that his company will have two pilots on its flights that will utilize Cessna Grand Caravan planes. 

Hanafin has previously said Quincy officials could “veto” any EAS offer that doesn’t include twin-engine airplanes. By accepting an airline offer that calls for single-engine airplanes, Quincy loses the right to request twin-engine planes forever.

John Mast, R-5, asked Hanafin Monday about the likelihood of ever getting jet service back in Quincy.

“It is possible,” Hanafin replied. “But right now, the only airline that does jet services in the EAS community in this region is Sky West, and they just recently dropped out of 31 cities, much like Cape Air did. So it is possible down the line right now, but it would be very slim to get any sort of jet service.”

Hanafin said Monday’s decision doesn’t mean the city never will get twin-engine service again. Troup said losing twin-engine planes was “discouraging.”

“Unfortunately, in the current climate, unless we are not afraid of the possibilities of having no air service, we really don’t have a choice,” Troup said. “That’s what it came down to.”

Troup said he was impressed by the 99.3 percent completion rate of Southern Express flights, as well as the hiring of more than 120 pilots since Jan. 1 during a nationwide pilot shortage.

Travel House of Quincy owner Mecki Kosin told aldermen at the beginning of the meeting that her clients “have no faith in our airport.”

“(I told Cestari) the biggest job you have is to convince the people of Quincy that you’re going to be here, and you’re going to fly when you say you will,” Kosin said.

Aldermen approved the first round of properties selected to be part of the city’s fix or flatten program. Properties selected were 613 Chestnut, 314 Elm, 521 Sycamore, 700 Madison, 716 Washington, 704 Ohio, 1308 N. 12th, 1100 Chestnut, 1200 Lind, 909 N. Fifth, 530-536 N. Seventh and 922 N. Eighth.

“All the properties on the list approved today have been on the watch list for approximately a year, some actually possibly longer,” Troup said. “We’ve got the budget, we’ve got contractors that can perform the work. Let’s go ahead and get these approved.”

Troup said some of the properties are ready to be addressed now, while others must continue through a court process. 

“This is not going to be completed by Sept. 1,” he said. “This is something that’s going to take several months to work through.”

Aldermen approved:

  • A special event application from Scott Edlin, owner of On the Rail, 129 South 4th, to hold a music festival Aug. 19-20.
  • A special event application from the St. Peter’s Picnic Committee to hold its annual parish picnic on Aug. 27 at 2600 Maine. 
  • The mayor’s appointment of Jeff Steinkamp to the Aeronautics Committee as a non-voting member. His term will expire Aug. 31, 2023. 
  • Paying Gem City Ford Lincoln $38,850.24 for a chassis delivery and $31,147 to Knapheide Truck Equipment Center when a truck bed is installed on a 2021 F-450 4×4 truck for the forestry division. The same payments were approved for the same type of truck for the concrete division.
  • A lease agreement with Dr. John Arnold for T-hangar space at Quincy Regional Airport at a monthly rate of $183.06.
  • Paying an invoice from Badge Meter of Milwaukee, Wisc., in the amount of $13,804.31 for the renewal of a cellular-based automatic meter reading software. 
  • The painting of Quincy Notre Dame logos on Jackson Street between Eighth and 12th by the QND Football Committee on Wednesday.
  • Sending a request to the Traffic Commission to investigate parking near 24th and Lind. Tracy Nichols of 2323 Lind spoke to aldermen about parking congestion along Lind caused by employees of Wink’s Drinks, 831 N. 24th.
  • Sending a request to rezone Lake Ridge 2nd Addition Lot 1 from C1A (Commercial) and C1B (Commercial) to NR1 (Neighborhood Residential) to allow for the construction of cluster homes to the Plan Commission.
  • Signing a five-year contract with Synagro of Baltimore, Md., for the pumping, hauling and land application of water treatment plant residuals (lime sludge) and biosolids (sewage sludge) beginning Aug. 15. 
  • Paying Sunbelt Rentals $16,175 to remove lime sludge from lagoon No. 4 at the Waste Water Treatment plant and paying $57,915.72 to LCL Farms, Inc. of Keokuk, Iowa, to haul lime sludge to the landfill for disposal. 

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