Awaiting certification from FAA
By Ken Park
PORT ANGELES — Dash Air aims to hit the skies for charter flights later in July with commercial passenger flights beginning in August, barring more delays.
The airline start-up has had a series of starts and stops in its goal to bring commercial air travel back between Port Angeles and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Dash Air President Clint Ostler said that the company is in the home stretch of finalizing the certification of its aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and getting permission to operate as an intrastate airline by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Dash Air first announced it was bringing air travel back to Port Angeles in April 2021 in a presentation to the Port of Port Angeles when the port gave Dash Air $333,000 to get off the ground.
Dash Air hit its first of many bumps on the ground in October 2021 wherein the Tukwila-based start-up, after guaranteeing Port Angeles to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport service in the fall, was awaiting certification of maintenance and protocols for its Cessna 402C’s from the FAA.
Since then Dash Air has hit one delay after the other due primarily to continued conversations with FAA and with DOT following the submission of complaints by Kenmore Air in July 2022 accusing the company of not complying with state laws.
Kenmore Air previously provided commercial flights from Port Angeles to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but the company left the North Olympic Peninsula in 2014.
“Last July, Kenmore Air filed a complaint with DOT, and we responded to the complaint,” Ostler said Thursday.
“They (Kenmore Air) tried to add more to their complaint and we responded to that as well.”
At that point, the DOT said Kenmore could not file additional complaints and closed the docket for public comment in September 2022, but allowed Dash Air to respond to those complaints from Kenmore Air.
“We finally got a response from DOT in May and had a meeting with them to talk through the complaint and our operation, they requested additional information which was provided,” Ostler said.
“We had a follow-up call with them and they still had some concerns. We responded to those concerns and now we are waiting again.”
The Tukwila-based start-up tapped U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer to help poke the DOT into responding sooner rather than later. As of Thursday DOT had not responded to the 6th District congressman’s office regarding this subject, Ostler said.
“We can’t just wait indefinitely,” he said. “We have to start generating revenue or we are not going to succeed as a business. So we are just going to follow the DOT’s requirements for our type of airline.”
Dash Air currently only has one operational Cessna 402C, which is currently getting a new coat of paint after having the necessary parts replaced on the aircraft.
“We had a couple of supply chain issues and parts challenges which we just got resolved,” Ostler said.
“When you first got through the process of bringing an airplane on a certificate, the FAA has a very rigorous inspections program. So we went through the inspection program and there were two parts, two brackets, that needed to be replaced,” Ostler said.
“We scoured the world for those parts. They were not available anywhere and we had to wait for them to be manufactured.”
Ostler said he expects the main aircraft to be ready in a couple of weeks and that Dash Air intends to lease a second aircraft for regularly scheduled services.
“Then we just need the FAA to sign off on it (main aircraft). The plan at that point is to operate charters and be available for charter service for the bulk of July and the first part of August.” Ostler said.
Ostler said that aside from awaiting additional approval from FAA and DOT, part of the reason Dash Air is offering charter services is due to the runway rehabilitation project happening at Fairchild International Airport, which has led to temporarily shorter runway lengths that do not align with FAA requirements for commercial flights.
The charter flights can begin to be scheduled as early as July 11 with the earliest flight date of July 17 running through Aug. 10, barring additional setbacks.
Ostler said that Dash Air intends to make a formal announcement about the charter flights next week. That will include how to book them.
When regular flights do begin, ideally in mid-August, the schedule will look a bit different than originally planned.
“Because we haven’t received any official word from DOT on whether or not we can run as an intrastate airline, we have to operate under the restrictions that were part of our original authorization,” Ostler said.
”So we are limited to four flights per week between any two city pairs. We are still working on a plan of what that looks like, but we are still finalizing the schedule.”
For more information, see https://flydashair.com/.