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Carlsbad airline names new president and CEO

CARLSBAD — Experienced airline executive John Selvaggio has been named the new president and CEO of California Pacific Airlines (CPAir), North County’s first airline. Headquartered in Carlsbad, CPAir is currently trudging closer towards receiving federal certification and hopes operations will take off as early as fall this year.

Selvaggio will be taking over CPAir’s day-to-day management from founder and chairman Ted Vallas, who is in his early 90s.

“I’m too young to be retired. That’s why I accepted Ted’s challenge of getting CPAir certified and off the ground,” Selvaggio said in a press release. “With my extensive experience at American and American Eagle, I think I can fill the need that calls for a veteran hand to guide this exciting new venture.”

John Selvaggio is the new president and CEO of Carlsbad-based California Pacific Airlines.  Courtesy photo
John Selvaggio is the new president and CEO of Carlsbad-based California Pacific Airlines. Courtesy photo

Over his 40-plus-year career in the aviation industry, Selvaggio has worked as an executive for American Airlines, American Eagle, US Airways, and most recently for Delta Airlines.

Although Vallas does intend to retire eventually, he will remain involved in CPAir’s business enterprises at this time, according to Selvaggio.

CPAir was originally planned to start flying last year, but a series of delays with its FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation certifications has postponed the airline’s operations.

The FAA’s certification is designed to ensure that the airline complies with federal regulations and safety standards, while the DOT certification is meant to establish that the airline is capable of providing public air transportation.

So far, CPAir passed phase one of the FAA’s certification in February 2012 and received partial approval from the DOT in August 2011.

“The FAA has informed us that they are moving forward to certify the airline, and it is a question of when and not if,” said Selvaggio.

Executives anticipate that CPAir will receive full federal certification this summer and start flying about a month and a half later.

Yet Selvaggio mentioned concerns that the FAA’s sequestration budget cuts could further slow CPAir’s certification.

Once certified, CPAir intends to operate an average of 15 daily nonstop flights from Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport to Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Cabo San Lucas.

Upon start-up, CPAir’s fleet will consist of four Embraer 170s aircrafts that can seat 70 passengers.

So far Vallas and other backers have invested about $10 million into the flightless airline, and more capital would be needed to begin operations, according to Selvaggio.

Currently United Express, operated by SkyWest, offers the only daily commercial flights out of the McClellan-Palomar Airport.