SKY TAXI IS UP AND FLYING

April 25, 2002 12:00 am
The SkyTaxi service is just getting off the ground with planes in Aurora, Corvallis and Newport and Olympia, Wash., but it eventually hopes to serve a large area. ().
The SkyTaxi service is just getting off the ground with planes in Aurora, Corvallis and Newport and Olympia, Wash., but it eventually hopes to serve a large area. ().

The Union County Economic Development Corporation is in the airline business.

At its April 18 meeting, the private corporation's board of directors voted to buy a twin-engine Cessna 414 airplane and become part of the SkyTaxi Service serving at present the Northwest. "While the service will be serving this area now, the target date for us getting our own plane is July 1," said Joel Frank, executive director of UCEDC.

The plane will be refurbished and should be here by that date, he said.

"We're starting the selection process now for hiring the two pilots," Frank said.

The SkyTaxi service is just getting off the ground with planes in Aurora, Corvallis and Newport and Olympia, Wash., but it eventually hopes to serve a large area. At present, it can handle flights within a triangular area roughly defined as including Boise, Medford and Seattle. In the not-to-distant future, SkyTaxi should be serving customers on business and pleasure trips in the area from southern British Columbia to Nevada, from western Montana to northern California, said Dan Waldron, marketing director for SkyTaxi.

"The service will begin serving the La Grande area now, although we don't have a plane here yet," Frank said.

He said he is getting calls weekly asking about the service.

"There's lots of interest," he said.

Likely, the service will be used more by corporations and entities such as Boise Corporation, the U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Oregon University, and perhaps Oregon Department of Transportation, the National Guard and other large groups.

According to figures presented to the UCEDC board in February, the planes required — with four seats for passengers, two pilots and adequate room for luggage or sports equipment — cost $500,000. There is a $50,000 franchise fee, and estimates are it would cost $100,000 a year in salaries for the pilots.

SkyTaxi was organized as a wholly owned subsidiary of Morrow Aircraft Corporation in Salem. The plan calls for each franchise to own a twin-engine plane to help serve the network. Planes would fly on demand of the customers, with the best fares coming with a 14-day advance reservation and with four passengers per flight.

The concept, Waldron explained, would be to have a plane leave

La Grande every morning with passengers and return by the end of the day, hopefully with passengers.

Waldron plans to market the network so that planes don't have to return to their home base without passengers. Empty, or "deadhead" flights would cause the service to lose money, he said.

Waldron, who said the aim was to have operators in 12 cities by the end of the year, said this week, "It is our pleasure to inform you that SkyTaxi Service has begun. We are booking flights and flying people."

He called SkyTaxi "a blend of the best of the airlines, charter and fractional owner industries. From the airline concept, SkyTaxi brings the benefit of highly trained crews and meticulously safe operations.From the charter and fractional concepts, SkyTaxi brings unscheduled, comfortable and convenient service."

He urged people who want information or fares to visit the Web site: www.skytaxi.com or to call 1-866-759-8294. There is a "Fare Calculator" section for finding out the fare between different cities.