CARLSBAD — Last Friday the first of what Theodore “Ted” Vallas, founder and CEO of the new California Pacific Airline, hopes will be many flights, landed in Carlsbad at the McClellan-Palomar Airport.
Entering its third year of development, California Pacific Airline looks to have their certification process finished soon, with service slated to begin at the tail end of this year.
Vallas, 91, and an Encinitas resident, said it’s always been in his mind to start an airline in the area. “This should be an area that would have point-to-point service to at least 21 cities,” he said of the North County.
Vallas has been a part of several development projects in North County throughout his life, including the purchasing and expanding of the El Camino Country Club golf course in Oceanside in 1958, and renovating the Whispering Palms Golf Resort in Rancho Santa Fe in the mid-60s.
He’s been in the airline business for 17 years prior to this, he said. In the ‘70s Vallas bought an inter-island air service operating in the Caribbean from American Airlines.
California Pacific is just now in Phase II of three phases in the FAA certification process.
Vallas said the airline will offer point-to-point service to San Jose and Oakland, Sacramento, Phoenix, Cabo San Lucas and Las Vegas, once their certification is approved.
The airline also hopes, within the next five years, to build their fleet to 16 planes and begin service to other cities as Houston, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver.
The locations, Vallas said, were selected based on the tremendous demand, stemming from multiple studies.
As for the demand of the point-to-point travel service, Vallas described it like this: “Before we get to the six aircraft, we wouldn’t have enough seats for the demand that is there right now.”
His clientele, he expects, will be that of business people and tourists. “We’re right here in the absolute center of all of the recreation activity,” he said.
California Pacific selected to use the Embraer-170 and the Embraer-190; the first of their E-170s fleet flew into Carlsbad last week. The twin-engine E-170 has the capacity to carry 72 passengers.
Willie Vasquez, airport manager for McClellan-Palomar Airport said the new addition to the airport brings a new level of service to the community of Carlsbad, of North County.
The airport bases over 60 jet operations, jets about the same size or slightly larger than the E-170.
Vasquez said that McClellan-Palomar Airport did about 140,000 operations last year. In 1998, they were doing 298,000 operations but that tapered off due to the economy and costs associated with flying.
Vallas had this to say about entering the shaky airline business: “If you start acting like an airline, instead of a second-class bus operation, there’s no stopping it.”
Vasquez is hoping that with the addition of the new airline to the airport, it will attract other airlines to do the same.
“What we do is aviation,” Vasquez said. “So anything that increases the aviation that’s what we are here to do is to foster aviation. And what better way than to accept a new airline into the airport,” he said.
California Pacific is also looking to hire about 110 new employees.
Vallas who wasn’t able to discuss pricing rates of flights due to Department of Transportation restrictions, described it only as “competitive.” In addition to the competitive rates, he said, travelers will save two-and-a-half to three hours of travel time because of the airport’s location; and many dollars on parking (all-day parking at McClellan-Palomar Airport is $5.)