CARLSBAD — This time, they say, it is real.
On May 25, California Pacific Airlines founder Ted Vallas and company executives hosted a family and media flight to Sacramento aboard a 50-seat commercial jet.
The flight was to announce the company’s plans to begin commercial airline service from McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad.
CP Air also had celebrity help, as Robert Hays, who played Cpt. Ted Striker in the 1980 classic “Airplane!” was on board. Hays volunteers with U.S. Blood Donors, which partners with regional airlines to deliver rare blood types quickly.
Chief Executive Officer Paul Hook said CP Air will begin service in late summer, with the first routes to be service to Phoenix, San Jose, Las Vegas, Oakland and Cabo San Lucas.
CP Air would be the second commercial regional airline in Carlsbad. Cal Jet Elite Air began service last year, but shut down operations last month. However, the company said it will resume service in June with more destinations.
John Barkley, CP Air’s chief financial officer, said those routes will be rolled out, but emphasized the Phoenix and San Jose routes as the priority, mainly for businesses who fly employees routinely to those destinations. He said one major tech company had 1,400 flights to Phoenix last year.
“The transaction of acquiring the airline that’s already operating makes it a different proposition in bringing something to Carlsbad,” Barkley said. “If you already have the infrastructure that we have … it really fast tracks the process. The only thing left is to lease some space in the terminal and our destinations.”
For years, Vallas has attempted to launch the airline, but hit roadblocks for certifications and approvals with San Diego County, which owns and operates the airport, and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Currently, the county is reviewing CP Air’s application.
“The county has accepted CPA’s application for commercial service, and we are processing the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review for CPA’s request. Once the CEQA review is completed, we will be able to determine the next steps and timing,” said Jessica Northrup, the county’s public communications officer for the land use and environmental group.
Vallas and his investors (The Coast News publisher Jim Kydd is an investor) announced last fall the acquisition of Aerodynamics, which has four planes, mostly for charter service. Barkley said he is working on leasing more jets, including the larger Embraer 175, which holds 70 passengers.
Aerodynamics’ commercial and charter operations (under SkyValue and Great Lakes Airlines), which includes contracts with NASCAR teams and the NCAA for college athletic programs, will be rebranded as California Pacific Airlines.
“This will be the true, hometown airline of Carlsbad’s Palomar Airport,” Hook said. “It is with great pleasure that I can say that.”
Of course, the biggest selling point for CP Air is a fast, easy flight process. Hook and Barkley emphasized the toll passengers, especially in North County, undergo when flying out of San Diego International Airport.
At Palomar, parking is $5, security lines are much shorter and the time spent commuting is less.
As for safety, Hook said Aerodynamics’ record “speaks for itself,” noting the regional carrier has never had an incident in more than 50 years of service.
“It’s one of the safest airlines in the country,” he added.
Additionally, CP Air will partner with major carriers, such as United and American, for international travel. Hook said a customer can buy a ticket, fly from Palomar to one of its locations and transition to another airline, including baggage, seamlessly.
“We do need more planes,” Barkley said. “I’m trying to get my hands on as many planes as possible. As CFO, my focus is acquiring as many assets as possible to be successful.”
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.