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Great Lakes quitting service to five airports

Great Lakes quitting service to five airports; Wyoming not affected

Jan 28, 2014 - The Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Federal Transportation Department officials have agreed to announce Essential Air Service contracts for North Dakota communities this week, and to possibly speed up transitions for Devils Lake and Jamestown, where air service is threatened, U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp say.

Wyoming-based Great Lakes Airlines is pulling out of Jamestown and Devils Lake at the end of the week -- along with Thief River Falls in Minnesota and Fort Dodge and Mason City in Iowa -- citing problems in retaining pilots under new federal rules on pilot qualifications that took effect last August.

They require co-pilots to log 1,500 flight hours, rather than the previous 250 hours, before they can work for commercial airlines.

The regulations also have led to widespread service problems in Wyoming and the rest of Great Lakes's service area. Great Lakes serves Cheyenne, Riverton, Sheridan and Worland in Wyoming.

"Due to the unintended consequences of the new congressionally mandated pilot regulatory requirements, the company feels it is in the best interest of our customers, communities and employees to suspend service until we are able to rebuild our staff of pilots in order to provide reliable service," Great Lakes CEO Charles Howell said in a statement.

Officials in Devils Lake and Jamestown earlier had endorsed a switch from Great Lakes to SkyWest Airlines to provide service under the federal Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes service to smaller cities.

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