Thursday, March 10, 2016

California Pacific Airlines: Struggling airline startup might be close to takeoff

Ted Vallas of Rancho Santa Fe founded California Pacific Airlines in 2010. 

After six years and millions of dollars, a North County airline startup says it is as little as four months away from opening.

California Pacific Airlines, which first filed for approval in 2010, said its Carlsbad-based airline could begin flights in four months. The business has been beset by delays because of a rejected application and other issues with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The McClellan-Palomar Airport-based business said it will start out with three ERJ-135 twin jets, which seat up to 30 people, and eventually will add more planes as it gets more established.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor declined to say much about the airline’s announcement other than the administration would continue working closely with the company on the certification process.

“San Diego cannot accommodate what is necessary for North County,” said California Pacific Airlines founder Ted Vallas, 95. “We have 3 million passengers that should be flying out of McClellan-Palomar Airport . . . That is our niche, our business plan and our reason for spending the money we did.”

Vallas said the airline has spent $18 million to $20 million so far getting the airline operational. He said financing will not be a problem once the airline receives its operating certificate from the FAA.

Aziz Hatefi, a consultant and adviser on the project, said initial routes will include San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Cabo San Lucas.

The airline has announced it was about to begin operation several times in the last three years, never to materialize.

Vallas, of Rancho Santa Fe, is an airline industry veteran, starting charter service Air Resort Airlines in the 1980s. He filed his application to start California Pacific Airlines in April 2010, and even had a 72-seat regional jet — with “California Pacific” emblazoned in blue letters on its sides — parked at the airport in 2013.

After years of back-and-forth talks over safety, the FAA rejected the airline’s application in August 2013 because it said it failed to meet minimum standards in areas such as safety, maintenance and inspections.

The FAA expressed concern the airline did not have required data showing that Palomar’s runways could handle the 72-seat Embraer jet.

Once established, Vallas said his airline will once again add the Embraer jet — he is confident it will be certified to fly at the airport — and plans to grow by 20 aircraft in three to four years. Vallas said 500 jobs will be created in the airline’s first two years of operation.

He said he had to let go of 35 to 40 employees when federal budget cuts forced the FAA to delay processing the company’s application in November 2013.

Former CEO John Selvaggio left the company in December 2013 to become vice president of business development and resource planning for Mesa Air Group. Since then, most of his duties have been handled by Vallas.

California Pacific Airlines says it will hold a press conference in two weeks to give more information on its plans. In the meantime, it is negotiating with San Diego County, the owner of McClellan-Palomar Airport, to get an environmental approval.

Original article can be found here:

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