“Aleutian Airways” to fly Anchorage-Dutch Harbor nonstop using Saab 2000s

In Alaska Travelgram by scott

PenAir’s fleet of Saab 2000s sits idle in Anchorage in May, 2020.

A new airline affiliated with Juneau’s Alaska Seaplanes will fly from Anchorage nonstop to Dutch Harbor this fall, using Saab 2000s previously operated by Peninsula Airways.

Kent Craford, President of Alaska Seaplanes and co-owner of Aleutian Airways, plans to start test flights soon. Flights will be operated by Sterling Airways, a “part 121” U.S. air carrier.

The Saab 2000 aircraft was specially modified by Peninsula Airways “PenAir” to serve the Aleutian chain.

Following a fatal accident on Oct. 17, 2019, regular passenger service to Dutch Harbor ended. Ravn Alaska, the operator of the Saab 2000s at the time, eventually filed for bankruptcy and was liquidated.

Since then, a reorganized Ravn Alaska started flying a Dash-8-100 series aircraft, which often required a fuel stop between Dutch Harbor and Anchorage. Recently, Ravn Alaska upgraded its service to a Dash-8-300 series, which can fly the route nonstop. Cruising speed is about 330 miles per hour.

“Our independent analysis determined the Saab 2000 to be the most capable platform for operations to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, and when flown by experienced flight crews—under PenAir’s original stringent experience requirements—Saab 2000 service can restore the standard of safety and reliability that PenAir had established when it was operating independently.” said Wayne Heller, President and CEO of Sterling Airways. “With a combination of experience, equipment and financial wherewithal, Aleutian Airways will be well positioned to be the premiere airline of Southwest Alaska.”

The Saab 2000 flies at more than 430 miles per hour.

“The aircraft will be flown by former PenAir Saab 2000 pilots, seasoned Alaska-based crews with deep experience in the flying conditions of Southwest Alaska. Further, Aleutian Airways will be re-instituting the PenAir pilot experience requirements for Dutch Harbor – bringing back industry-leading safety standards to the region. Many former PenAir employees have already signed on to join Aleutian, from pilots to mechanics, flight attendants and ground personnel,” according to a company press release.

In an interview, Craford said the new airline has many ambitions beyond the single route between Anchorage and Dutch Harbor. That includes prospective partnerships with airlines to the Lower 48 and other destinations.

“Right now, we’re laser-focused on getting this route dialed in,” he said.

Aleutian Airways is funded through a partnership with Wexford Capital and McKinley Capital Management.

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