local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 last week
 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info

 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs

 email us:
 arts and events


Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8065 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


Mountain Jobs

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League



Gary Carr...The Carr Man!

Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho


For the week of August 22 - 28, 2001


Nonstop L.A.-Hailey jet connection planned

Express Staff Writer

Daily nonstop jet service between Hailey and Los Angeles could begin next year, if negotiations among Sun Valley Co., the Ketchum-Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce and an Oklahoma-based airline go well.

A 35-passenger Fairchild Dornier jet capable of nonstop flights to Los Angeles lands in Hailey on Saturday. Negotiations are underway for Great Plains Airlines to begin offering regularly scheduled nonstop flights to Los Angeles as early as next summer. Express photo by David Seelig

The new and unusual route would bypass the national hub system set up by the country’s largest airlines. For the first time, travelers would be able to fly between Los Angeles and Hailey without first going to Salt Lake City, or some other metropolis. A new kind of small, powerful, long-range jet makes the route possible.

Those involved with the deal say it would boost the tourist economy here because travel from Los Angeles would be reduced to an easy hour-and-45-minute flight. The trip, with a plane change, now takes several hours.

Also, current flights involve relatively unpopular turboprop planes. An all-jet trip may encourage more travel, say those involved with the deal.

Few details of the ongoing negotiations are available. However, Jim Swartz, cofounder of the tiny Great Plains Airlines, said his company is in discussions with Fairchild Dornier representatives to purchase a 35-passenger regional jet for the route. Before that happens, Sun Valley Co. and maybe other Wood River Valley businesses would need to offer a suitable financial guarantee that the airline won’t lose money on the new route, he said. The guarantee could run into millions of dollars.

Great Plains Airlines cofounder Jim Swartz said the newly formed airline’s niche "is to operate…where competitors cannot offer service." Express photo by David Seelig

Also yet to be decided is the number of flights per day and whether the flights would be year-round or only during the busy winter season.

Fares would be competitive with general market prices, airline cofounder Jack Knight said.

On Saturday, Swartz and other Great Plains representatives flew into Hailey in one of the company’s two existing Fairchild Dornier jets for a show-and-tell session.

The group that watched from the tarmac as the small white-and-green plane circled Hailey about 12:30 p.m. and landed from the north with surprisingly little noise included Hailey Mayor Brad Siemer, state Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, chamber of commerce director Carol Waller, Sun Valley Co. director of marketing Jack Sibbach, and airport manager Rick Baird.

The plane arrived from Salt Lake City, where Sun Valley Co. owner Earl Holding had toured it with "extraordinarily positive" reactions, Knight said. At 4 p.m. Saturday, the plane continued its trip to Jackson, Wyo., where Knight and Swartz hope to also begin offering nonstop flights to major metropolitan areas.

People in the airline industry refer to Great Plains as a "hub bypass airline" because it focuses on directly connecting small markets like Sun Valley with larger markets that are hard to reach through the hub system. New jet technology makes this possible. Representatives for Hailey’s current airlines, Horizon and SkyWest, have said that their smallest jets, at about 70 passengers, cannot take off at full capacity from the high mountain environment. So they won’t offer jet service.

Great Plains pilot Kathy Birkhofer said Saturday that the $11 million Fairchild Dornier was built with powerful engines and other features specifically for airports like Hailey’s.

The niche of Great Plains, which began flying its only existing route between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque on May 25, "is to operate the airplane where competitors cannot offer service," Swartz said.

Great Plains Airlines was formed in December 2000 as a private-public partnership in Tulsa, Okla. A coalition of Tulsa-area chambers of commerce and city and state political leaders helped start the airline with Swartz and Knight through a specially created tax credit incentive program, the company’s Web site states.

Hailey airport manager Baird was enthusiastic about the recent changes in aircraft technology and in the airline industry.

"We believe an aircraft like this is the future of an airport like ours," he said after touring the plane Saturday.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.