Flights may boost economy

The return of regular air service to Whidbey Island will boost the local economy if backers see their wishes fulfilled.

Kenmore Air starts regular service Monday, filling a void in air service that has taken years to fill.

Harbor Air stopped flying out of Oak Harbor in 2001, leaving the area without regularly-scheduled commercial service.

“When it comes to attracting new businesses to the county,” Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell said, “air service is just critical.”

McDowell, who was on board Tuesday’s VIP inaugural flight from Oak Harbor to Seattle’s Boeing Field, said the success of the service will likely depend on the Navy base.

The bulk of Harbor Air’s business was Navy personnel. While the base may have gotten used to ground transportation, he hopes officials “get back into using local air service.”

By using the air service, McDowell said the Navy will be supporting the local economy. He pointed out that the Navy is concerned about the quality of employment in the area for Navy spouses.

“What’s good for business is good for the Navy,” he said.

Kenmore Air has made a big investment in the Oak Harbor airport, including improved runway lighting as well as lighting of obstructions near the airport and improvements to the airport terminal.

Company officials worked intensely with the Navy, the FAA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reinstitute an approved instrument approach procedure, permitting safe arrivals and departures in inclement weather.

In addition to passenger transportation, Kenmore is offering specialized air-freight service on the Seattle-to-Oak Harbor route. Kenmore officials said that banks, escrow companies and couriers have found the airline an advantageous way to move documents and small parcels quickly and reliably to and from the Seattle metropolitan area.

“Transportation links are very important to our economy,” Sharon Hart, executive director of the Island County Economic Development Council, said in a press release, “and Kenmore offers superior service and convenience for our residents.”

Flights leave Oak Harbor for Seattle at 5 a.m., 8:50 a.m.., 2:40 p.m. and 5:40 p.m.

Flights leave Seattle for Oak Harbor at 7:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 11:15 p.m.

Call 866-435-9524 for ticket information.

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