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St. Paul Island fears temporarily losing air service

St. Paul, Alaska. (Photo by John Ryan/KUCB)

St. Paul Island will continue to have flights to Anchorage — at least through Sunday, according to a community notice.

The island could lose all air service after that, and the city of St. Paul fears it will not return until Ravn Alaska’s airplanes servicing the remote community are certified to fly over open water.

A statement from Ravn says the regional airline found out Dec. 13 that the Saab 340 aircraft they planned to lease from former PenAir CEO Danny Seybert to fly to St. Paul will not be available, but they are working to get their aircraft certified to fly to the island as soon as possible.

Ravn Alaska purchased PenAir this fall at auction for $12.3 million, more than a year after the aviation company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Since Tuesday, community leaders from St. Paul have been in talks with the U.S. Department of Transportation, the court appointed trustees overseeing the sale, Ravn, PenAir, the Dunleavy administration, and Alaska’s congressional delegation in an effort to keep their flights running over the holidays.

“We’re in a situation where (because of) the transition and possibly no planes available to PenAir Ravn to fly out to St. Paul, that we’re going to have a lapse in service,” said St. Paul Island City Manager Philip Zavadil.

Between now and February — when Ravn’s Bombardier Dash 8 airliners are expected to be certified to fly over water by the Federal Aviation Administration — Zavadil said there are nearly 500 passengers scheduled to fly to and from St. Paul Island.

“I find it unfortunate that the community’s been put in this position,” Zavadil said. “That we’re the ones that are having to address this, and make calls, and find out what’s going on when the airline is the one that has the legal responsibility to provide the service.”

Zavadil said Trident Seafoods has already set up charters to fly in about 240 workers for the snow crab season, and St. Paul officials are exploring that option as well to ensure community members can travel over the holidays.

The attorney for the trustee overseeing the PenAir sale, Michael Markham, said, “As always, it is the intention that the route to St. Paul will continue uninterrupted.”

The aim is to finalize the PenAir sale to Ravn by the end of the year.

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