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Published January 27, 2014, 02:28 PM

Devils Lake air service to be temporarily grounded; Great Lakes Airlines pulling out of Devils Lake, Jamestown

Devils Lake and Jamestown temporarily will lose commercial passenger air service, perhaps as early as the weekend.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

Devils Lake and Jamestown temporarily will lose commercial passenger air service, perhaps as early as the weekend.

Great Lakes Airlines, which has been providing air service to the two North Dakota cities for the past two years under a federal Essential Air Service contract, informed airport officials in both cities late last week that it would discontinue service on or around Jan. 31.

"My understanding is they're eliminating the whole Minneapolis hub," Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson said this morning. "They're blaming the federal government for new regulations that have caused a pilot shortage."

Great Lakes, originally based in Spirit Lake, Iowa, but now in Cheyenne, Wyo., also serves several Minnesota cities, including Thief River Falls. Its current contract with Thief River Falls expires May 31.

The airline, which is under contract to provide the service to Devils Lake and Jamestown through March 31, originally applied to continue service for another two years.

However, officials in both cities since have written letters supporting a competing bid, from Utah-based SkyWest Airlines.

SkyWest is proposing one daily direct round-trip to Denver from Devils Lake and from Jamestown on a 50-passenger turbojet aircraft.

Great Lakes 'proposal for 2014-16 had been to provide three daily roundtrip flights on a 19-seat turboprop airplane from Minneapolis to Jamestown/Devils Lake.

Johnson, Devils Lake Regional Airport Manager John Nord and Jamestown officials will participate in a conference call this afternoon with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Susan Kurland, DOT Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, to discuss air service to the two cities.

"We're going to make a pitch to approve SkyWest as soon as possible," Johnson said, "though I don't know if SkyWest can ramp up any faster."

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