IYK seeks $500K grant

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Airport District Board of Directors approved an action item at its April 17 meeting that could help Inyokern Airport restore commercial air service.

The board approved $15,000 in funding to Sixel Consulting, which was contracted to recruit a new vendor after United Airlines discontinued service last fall, to apply for a $500,000 grant that subsidizes commuter air service to small, rural communities.

Inyokern Airport CEO Scott Seymour said that Sixel has a very high success rate for bringing in vendors and procuring grants.

Sixel already conducted a marketing study to inform the current effort. According to Seymour, more than 100 people travel out of the IWV each day. However, tickets out of IYK were the most expensive, in terms of cost per mile, in the entire U.S.

Seymour said that he thought a more competitive pricing scheme could help IYK capture a larger number of travelers, which would ensure commuter service out of the valley. However, he said, recent changes in pilot credentials have created a shortage that inhibits any market growth in commercial air service.

First officers used to be allowed to log flight hours by sitting in the co-pilot seat. Now both pilots have to be fully certified. Seymour said this has not only driven up the ticket price for air travelers, but also created a shortage of qualified pilots.

“Because of that, most commuter airlines are not branching out right now. That said, there are still some airlines who are looking at new markets to replace any that might be closing,” said Seymour.

To qualify for the grant, IYK had to raise matching funds from within the community. Seymour said that thanks to some very generous donors, he was able to raise the money in just a few days. The most significant contribution came from SpringHill Suites and Marriot, which committed to some $49,000 in in-kind donations. Other donors include the Daily Independent, Swap Sheet and News Review.

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the donors and the way they stepped up to the plate to help this community,” said Seymour. “I would personally like to thank Dan Spurgeon, Peggy Breedon, Pat Farris and John Watkins.”

Story First Published: 2014-04-23