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Published December 14, 2011, 05:08 PM

Great Lakes Aviation to Fly Between Devils Lake, Twin Cities Starting This Weekend

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. (AP) — Great Lakes Aviation is moving quickly to offer air service between Devils Lake, N.D., and the Twin Cities in hopes of filling a flight gap left behind by Delta.

By: Associated Press,

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. (AP) — Great Lakes Aviation is moving quickly to offer air service between Devils Lake, N.D., and the Twin Cities in hopes of filling a flight gap left behind by Delta.

Great Lakes CEO Chuck Howell told Devils Lake officials that the behind-the-scenes activity is moving at "warp speed" to begin offering the flights this weekend, the Grand Forks Herald reported.

Devils Lake Regional Airport Manager John Nord said training is under way already for ground crew. Dick Johnson, the city's mayor, said the news is "very good for our community."

Devils Lake has had limited air service since Dec. 1, when Delta Air Lines switched from turboprop aircraft to regional jets. The change led to cancellations because the jets require a longer runway in windy weather than is available at the airport.

Since then, just four flights have landed in Devils Lake. Some passengers have been detoured to Grand Forks International Airport or Jamestown Regional Airport, and then bussed to Devils Lake.

The difficulty began when Delta announced earlier this year that it would halt service to Devils Lake, Thief River Falls and several other regional cities that are part of the federal Essential Air Service program.

Under EAS regulations, regular airline passenger service is guaranteed to the cities, so Delta continued servicing the communities until replacement carriers could take over. Plans for Great Lakes to step in were hastened when Delta made its aircraft switch because the smaller planes threatened to jeopardize service.

Great Lakes also is replacing Delta in Thief River Falls. The smaller airline will use 19-passenger, Beech 1900D pressurized twin-engine turboprop airplanes, the Herald reported. To compensate for the smaller planes, the U.S. Department of Transportation is requiring Great Lakes to offer three roundtrip flights daily beginning by April.

The first nonstop flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is scheduled to leave Devils Lake at 6:50 a.m. Saturday.

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