It is only a matter of time before St. John residents will enjoy on-island air service, according to Seaborne Airline’s President and CEO Omer ErSelcuk.
“It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when,” ErSelcuk said. “Servicing St. John is a priority for Seaborne Airlines. It is not a matter of financing, it’s a matter of finding the right aircraft.”
The company has plans to acquire two new aircraft this year and officials are hoping at least one of them will be able to service St. John.
“Essentially the Craft and Whitney PT-27 is what we have right now and we are looking at adding the Dash 34,” said ErSelcuk. “The modification will allow us to put a more powerful engine on our aircraft. It would give us about 20 percent more horse power and allow us to get up off the water quicker.”
Getting Off the Water Quicker
While Seaborne’s current fleet of aircraft is capable of traveling in and out of Love City, the additional power would make the ride more comfortable, ErSelcuk explained.
“We can come into St. John with what we have already, but there will be days that are rough and we wouldn’t want to subject the passengers or aircraft to it,” said Seaborne’s CEO. “They can handle it, but it wouldn’t be comfortable. If we can get off the water quicker, we can get out before we hit the swell.”
“The modification will reduce our take-off distance considerably which will allow us to get off the water before it gets rough,” ErSelcuk added.
Instead of flying into and out of the Enighed Pond Marine Facility, Seaborne officials are hoping to work with V.I. Port Authority officials to establish an alternate landing site.
Not Interested in Enighed
“We’d prefer to come in and out of Cruz Bay rather than Enighed,” said ErSelcuk. “We’re looking forward to working with the Port Authority to establish a location for entry that wouldn’t bother people and would be convenient. At Enighed there would be too long of a taxi in and out of there.”
Seaborne officials are looking at short-term and medium-term plans, according to ErSelcuk.
“In the short term we want to boost up our service in St. Croix, St. Thomas and Puerto Rico,” he said. “St. John service is included in our medium-term plans. We’d like to start service as early as the end of the year.”
While Seaborne is moving ahead with its Love City expansion plans, St. John Air Taxi officials still have not gotten word from VIPA officials regarding their request.
No Word From VIPA on SJAT
SJAT officials submitted an application to VIPA outlining their plan to operate an air service facility at Enighed Pond Marine Facility in May 2005, and have not heard anything from VIPA, explained David Brown, the air service hopeful’s CEO.
VIPA officials have not heard anything from Brown for months, according to VIPA spokesperson Marc Stridiron.
“The (VIPA) executive director has not heard anything from the proprietor of SJAT for at least the past six months,” said Stridiron. “There is no action to be taken.”