Viewpoint: Why not regional jet service?

Viewpoint: Why not regional jet service?

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Greater Rockford Airport has the chance to get much better service for the flying public if it wanted to do so. Mesaba Airlines, which does business as Northwest AirLink, has much more to offer than what we see.

The Rock River Times received a letter this week from a Mesaba pilot who expressed great disgust at the way Greater Rockford Airport has failed to support its only passenger airline.

He decries the lack of any promotional effort to enhance the service we do have. Such an effort is glaringly absent from the local and regional scene.

The pilot said Mesaba flies to more than 100 cities daily, using 36 regional jets and 75 turboprop planes. The airline uses Avro RJ85 jets for regional service. These aircraft carry 69 passengers, including 16 first-class seats.

The pilot said they fly higher and avoid

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bad weather and are generally more comfortable than other aircraft. He asks: “Why can’t the Greater Rockford Airport try to lure Mesaba’s regional jets? We operate to three different Northwest hubs (Detroit, Minneapolis and Memphis). “Some jets also are housed at Cincinnati.”

He added: “I’m sure the vacationers, just like the business people, would love to see it operate here, but not if we keep losing flights while the Greater Rockford Airport and its director do nothing.”

Much of this argument has been laid out before. One member of the aviation community already has proposed regional jet service based in Rockford and furnishing direct flights to a number of major cities.

That presents an almost ideal picture. The air traveler would be able to avoid the hassle of O’Hare, avoid bus trips, avoid going to Milwaukee or elsewhere. We would be able to fly right from here to most anywhere.

But there seems to be no strong will to bring any of this about. Most of the community is quiet on the subject, while government and the chamber of commerce indulge in mutual anal osculation with the airport director, James Loomis.

If that stance continues, the future does not look bright for this airport. Rockford has often been the butt of jokes by other cities in the state. The way we are going, we deserve what we get.

A properly marketed airport could make some big changes in this area. We have an excellent opportunity to capitalize on what we have. (Look at the efforts Milwaukeeand Gary’s airports.) They’re landing airlines and aggressively marketing for passengers.

If you would like to see regional jet service in Rockford, let the powers that be know it, and let Mesaba know it. An organized campaign can be highly effective.

Hello, area national and state elected offficials, Council of 100, Chamber of Commerce. Hello, mayors of Rockford, Loves Park, Machesney Park and Winnebago County Board Chairman—you appoint the airport board. Let’s go for it.

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