ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Evergreen International Airlines this week won a government contract to provide essential air service to Adak.
PenAir had held an interim contract since Reeve Aleutian Airways stopped flying to the area last December.
Essential air service is a federal program formed in the wake of airline deregulation in the late 1970s to subsidize air service to areas that carriers drop when they are no longer profitable.
The federal Department of Transportation asked for bids on a two-year contract for weekly round-trip service between Anchorage and community of 100 on the Aleutian Chain.
DOT gave PenAir high marks for stepping in on short notice, starting up only a week after Reeve bowed out.
PenAir offered the most flights to Adak in its bid, for the smallest proposed federal subsidy. But, DOT said, Adak prefers large aircraft, and Evergreen alone offered jet service for passengers, on a Boeing 727-100 combination passenger and cargo plane.
The reliability and safety of the 727, which Evergreen said can fly over the chain's frequent fog and storms that PenAir's turboprop can't, were driving factors for Adak City Council members, who supported Evergreen's bid. Community members said smaller aircraft could not always accommodate all the mail and freight to be shipped. They also said they would rather spend three hours in a jet than six hours in a turboprop.
Evergreen is scheduled to receive a subsidy of more than $7,000 per flight. DOT, sensitive to equality in air service statewide, said it will closely monitor the contract, which is open to renegotiation after one year.
Company spokesman Ron Pye said Evergreen, which asked for four months to get the service up and running, hopes to purchase a combination jet in the next few weeks.
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