IYK targets first-quarter start of air service

INYOKERN AIRPORT — Inyokern Airport is working toward a first-quarter start for reestablishing passenger flights out of IYK, where Mokulele Airlines will be offering three flights to LAX daily.

“We had originally hoped to restart service this fall, but we are still working with the Transporta-tion Security Authority so that we can conduct screening at IYK,” said Scott Seymour, general manager of the airport.

“Having TSA at Inyokern will greatly streamline travel for our passengers in Inyokern. Without TSA onsite, air travelers would have to land at an unsecure part of the terminal in Los Angeles and delay connections to go through security once they land.”

Seymour said that the postponed launch may also mean that the new program has a more robust start with local passengers. Historically, November and De-cember are the slowest months of the year for air travel, he said.

Inyokern has been without commuter air service since October 2013. Although China Lake traffic had been reduced leading up to the loss because of the sequestration-driven travel freeze, Seymour also noted that an erratic pricing scheme by the airlines, which saw one-way tickets out of IYK spike up to $400, also played a role in driving down local sales.

“We conducted a true-market study that showed more than 130 people leaving the valley every day to get on a plane — and that leakage study did not include passengers on three major airlines,” said Seymour. “By the time we lost service, we had only 18 people getting on a plane at IYK.”

Seymour said that in the intervening years, the industry has also driven changes for commuter vendors, many of whom have adapted to new FAA requirements by retiring the 30-passenger caravans that used to serve IYK.

Mokulele will have a nine-passenger aircraft to start off the program. “That gives us 27 seats to fill per day,” said Seymour. “I have talked to officials from the airline, and they have indicated they could possibly increase that number depending on what happens with our market. This is one of the reasons we are planning for as successful a launch as possible.”

“I want to thank the public for their patience, and for their continued support of our airport,” said IWV Airport Board President Paul Valovich.

“I also want to thank Scott for his persistence in bringing a new vendor into Inyokern during a time when markets are closing all across the country — with very few new ones opening up.”

Seymour said that the airport’s successful application for a $450,000 grant from the Department of Transportation will help defray start-up costs for service.

“We also have $100,000 in matching contributions from our generous local businesses and individuals in our community,” he said. “Without that support, this endeavor would not be possible.”

Seymour said that updates will be announced as they become available.

Story First Published: 2016-10-07