CARLSBAD — California Pacific Airlines is moving forward.
San Diego County, however, doesn’t see it that way, at least not yet.
CP Air CEO Ted Vallas, 95, held a press conference Tuesday at McClellan-Palomar Airport to publicly announce his company’s plans to begin commercial flights in about four months. He said an agreement is in place with Bellingham (Wash.) International Airport as a hub for routes to the state and Vancouver, Canada.
Vallas also touted the job creation and economic impact to the city and county once CP Air becomes operational.
“We’re going to be both a growth airline and dividend airline for investors,” Vallas said. “It’s where you fly gives you value. We are going to be point to point.”
CP Air lays out plans
Vallas also announced the company has recalled many of its employees who were furloughed in 2013. Among them include Director of Safety Paul Hook, who said he came back because Vallas’ business plan is solid and will benefit North County.
As part of the announcement, Vallas said an aggressive marketing campaign will begin by targeting three generations — Baby Boomers, GenX’ers and GenY’ers. Advertising will specifically target those groups through different means such as social media, radio and traditional media.
Giving support to Vallas’ airline plans were a pair of local heavyweights in former congressman Ron Packard and Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce President Ted Owen.
Owen said one entity North County has suffered is a lack of commercial flights from the Carlsbad airport. He said companies such as ViaSat are “dying for the day to fly out of Carlsbad.”
“This will grow to become one of the premier airlines in the country,” Packard added.
According to Vallas, the airline will start with 30-seat passenger jets and will follow by incorporating 72-seat planes in the coming months.
However, financing is another obstacle, although Vallas said there would be little problem in securing between $150 million and $200 million.
“For some of that, we are going to be looking at some of these bankers and sit down and make a decision,” he explained. “We’re going to satisfy them that if they play ball with us, we will give them the bat and the ball.”
Sunil Harman, director of aviation for the Bellingham International Airport, said communication between CP Air and the airport have begun. He said no definitive start date has been announced, although the target for service is late summer, pending the airline obtaining the necessary approvals and certifications.
According to a Jan. 15 letter to the county, CP Air states it is in the process of affiliating with Savi Airlines in Bellingham for expanded service.
“We are delighted with our market analytics and our marketing incentive package,” Harman said. “We are working toward having air service between Bellingham and Southern California.”
As for ticket sales, CP Air secured counters in 2010 and those amenities will become available in about a week, Vallas said.
“If all goes well, we’re about four months away from the first passenger flight, for which ticket sales will begin in about two months through a website, agents, etc.,” he added. “The proceeds will go into an escrow account until the tickets are actually used. It should be noted that the operation will be under FAR Part 135, flying CP Air colors.”
However, Alex Bell, communications officer for the county’s airports, said CP Air does not have an approved application or the required permits to begin flights.
Bell was the only airport representative present at the press conference.
She said CP Air submitted an application on Jan. 22 and it was returned on Feb. 10 for “a list of what is needed for the application to be deemed complete.” Bell provided a copy of the last official communication from the county and CP Air, dated Feb. 10, which details the “multiple deficiencies” of the application.
There are 11 areas in CP Air’s application that must be resubmitted with “enough information to demonstrate it is currently capable to perform the operations it is applying for.”
Bell said in a previous interview that CP Air’s application did not include a project description, which would detail how the company plans to operate, list existing certifications, TSA-approved security plans and proposed flights, among other issues.
Vallas responded to questions about the state of the permits and applications stating CP Air will “jointly operate with another airline under their approved certificate.”
He did not disclose the name of the other entity.
“We’ve had our place in the county,” Vallas added. “The fact I’m bringing on a certified airline to do some of the flying and operating under their certificate at the time … they cannot deny you entrance to the airport. That is controlled by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).”
Bell, though, said no other service provider (airline) has submitted an application or been granted permits to operate from the airport.
Bell questioned Vallas’ claims the airline was ready to launch and said CP Air would need to re-submit its application to start the process. In addition, it is possible an environmental impact report would be required, which would cause further delays up to two years.
“We already cleared the environmental situations,” Vallas responded. “I don’t know why it came up again with the airport. It only came up again because someone challenged it 15 years ago. They are shell shocked.”
Vallas said he appreciated Bell’s concerns, although he said the airline has obtained the proper permits in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and claimed an attorney for the county has been purposely opposing the airline despite the approvals.
He did not name the attorney, but told The Coast News that a previous legal battle between the county and CP Air over airport use permits during those years led the attorney to hold up the process.
The county was granted a summary judgment, which the California Courts of Appeal affirmed.
Vallas, though, said the FAA and the county have approved plans. FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said, “We are continuing to work very closely with the company on the certification process.”
Documents obtained by The Coast News detail numerous approvals from 2011 including a final order from the U.S. Department of Transportation approving the airline for commercial flights.
Airport officials unaware
However, a representative from McClellan-Palomar Airport said in a previous interview the airport has no plans of green lighting flights in the next two to four months as Vallas has claimed.
In addition, CP Air’s county fictitious business name filing expired in 2014 and has not been renewed.
Bell, meanwhile, said the project description is the base for the necessary environmental review.
Vallas, in an interview several weeks ago, said the negative declaration, which details environmental mitigation factors, would be done with in several months.
However, Bell said it would be “approximately six to eight months” or two years for an environmental impact report to be conducted.