Despite Ravn's Plan To Resume Regular Flights, Questions Remain On Start Date, Pilots' Status

Oct 31, 2019

A Dash 8 plane, photographed on the runway at Unalaska's airport. Ravn officials have said they plan to resume the community's regular flights during the week of Nov. 4, using Dash 8 aircraft.
Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB

While Ravn Air Group has said it plans to resume Unalaska's regular flights sometime next week, airline officials haven't released any further details since they made that announcement one week ago.

"I'm not real confident in their date line," said City Councilor Shari Coleman.

Coleman spoke at a special meeting Tuesday as councilors declared a local emergency over the community's lack of commercial air service. Ravn suspended regular flights between Unalaska and Anchorage after a fatal plane crash on the island on Oct. 17.

As of Thursday, Ravn's website didn't have any information on service between Unalaska and Anchorage. The website of its marketing partner, Alaska Airlines, showed no flights available until Nov. 21. That date would put the suspension at 34 days.

When service does resume, Ravn officials said the airline will be flying its De Havilland Dash 8 aircraft rather than the PenAir Saab 2000, which served the route between 2016 and the crash. While Ravn President Dave Pflieger said the airline will return to the bigger, faster Saab 2000 as soon as he's confident in its ability to fly safety, he didn't offer any timeline.

That concerns Unalaska resident and former mayor Frank Kelty.

"I'm worried about what's in our future here for this community. If they try and use the Dash 8 and not the Saab 2000 [in the long term], I think that'd be the time to really raise hell," said Kelty at the Tuesday council meeting.

In addition to the unknowns surrounding timeline and aircraft, it's unclear if the pilots who flew during the crash will be allowed to fly again for the Unalaska route.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilots are eligible to fly as long as neither the FAA nor the airline has taken any action against them — and as long as their certifications are current.

In an email to KUCB, FAA officials said they couldn't confirm whether the agency has taken any action against the pilots, citing the National Transportation Safety Board's ongoing investigation into the crash.

Neither Ravn nor Alaska Airlines officials have responded to KUCB's questions about the status of the pilots or requests for an on-tape interview. Ravn officials have also declined to answer questions about the pilots' experience levels or the company's standards for pilots.