Recently our town, Newport, Oregon, began air service to and from Portland International Airport (PDX to those in the know).  Today I took my third trip with the new airline, called SeaPort Airlines.  My feeling is, — and this is echoed by passengers I’ve talked to, — “it is about time!”  We are so glad to have air service that connects us with a major airport, cutting the long drive we have had to make either to PDX or Eugene.Photo of John

Today’s flight was typical.  I drove the 9 minutes to the airport, arriving at 4:30 am, 15 minutes prior to flight time.  Parking is free and within 50 feet of the door.  I presented my driver’s license, weighed my bags (no charge for up to 35 lbs), and was checked in.  I then went into the breakroom to await the flight, visiting with other passengers.  We boarded at 4:45, and within minutes were aloft, heading for Portland.  Today’s flight was full.  All nine seats were taken, and this is good news.  I had heard the airline needs a sustained passenger loading of more than about six passengers to make a go of it.  Previous flights I had taken had two to four passengers on each.  I asked another passenger who has flown four times already, and he said his previous flight was full as well.  

We arrived at PDX at 5:20, and the shuttle bus took us with our luggage around to the front door of the Portland airport, where we went through security and boarded our connecting flights, with plenty of time for several passengers to catch their 6:30 flights on to destinations unknown.

One of the special enjoyments of the service has been the access to the SeaPort team at all levels, seeing their commitment to service, and the enjoyment of flying in a small plane.  I am a small business owner, and wear many hats to make my company go.  SeaPort is no exception. I’ve had pilots grab my luggage from the plane and the CFO drive the shuttle bus. We’ve landed two planes over from Harrison Ford’s personal jet, and had breathtaking views of the Oregon Coast flying south into the airport.  But the highlight for me, a GPS guy, was the joy of flying a GPS approach into Newport.  Let me tell you the story…

 It was a dark and stormy night, and we were an hour late in departing from PDX (delays due to weather and Air Traffic Control, not SeaPort operations).  I asked the pilot if he flew “GPS approaches”.  By this I meant, did the pilot use special GPS procedures developed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to approach the airfield for the purpose of landing?  He assured me they did and offered to do so.

Newport Airport (ONP for those in the know) is a top-notch regional airport having a number of instrument navigonp1ation aids often not found at smaller airports.  These include distance measuring equipment, non-directional beacons, an instrument landing system, and GPS approaches.  The GPS approaches are the newest, and apparently the easiest to implement.  So when the pilot offered, I got pretty excited.  Upon boarding the plane, I grabbed the front starboard seat, the best place to watch everything going on in the cockpit.  We took off, and the pilot pulled out a set of “approach plates” turning to the page for the GPS landing procedure at ONP.  He dialed the procedure into the Garmin GPS flight management system (FMS), and I could see the data appear on the screen.  Airspeed, altitude, distance to destination.  As I said, it was a dark and stormy night, so nothing was visible through the windows, no lights, no moon, no coastline, just clouds above and below.  On the Garmin FMS though, we could see the plane flying out toward the coast, then turning south toward the airport.  The pilot controlled the descent as described in the procedure, — down we went, steadily through the clouds and rain and wind.  Then all of a sudden through the front window of the plane appeared the lights of Newport airport.  The plane was perfectly lined up with the runway and at the right altitude.  Now having a visual, the pilot set the plane down, softly as could be.  It was clear to me in the most tangible way possible the immense value GPS was providing to aircraft of all sizes.

In reflecting on this new air service, I have a few observations.  First, awareness and interest by local residents in this new service is growing.   When I flew last month, flights had two to four passengers, but today we had a full complement of nine passengers.  Another passenger mentioned his last flight was also full.  Second, flights are handled professionally, with proper check in, baggage handling, and on time departures and arrivals.  And finally, I can see a real commitment from the entire SeaPort team.  They are top notch, from the pilots through the reservation staff down to the shuttle drivers.  I say, “shuttle drivers”  with tongue in cheek.  One morning at 5:30 am, the shuttle driver was CFO, Jim Day.  “Got in early, and I thought I’d help.”  So on my next trip I asked the shuttle driver, “what do you do?  You’re clearly not a shuttle driver full time.”  “No, I run charters.  But it’s been a long day, and I wanted a break, so I decided to get out of the office and do a shuttle run.”

Anyone who has made something big happen, knows such things do not occur by one person alone, but rather is the result of an immense collaborative effort, with lots of determination and patience.  Many thanks to the many who have made this air service happen.  “It’s about time!”

One Response to “It’s a big deal having a small airline on the Oregon Coast”

  1. on 10 Jun 2009 at 10:04 pmNewport Notifier Norm (Winningstad)

    I, too, have flown SeaPort an number of times, ONP>PDX>ONP. It is handy, comfortable, and thanks to Newport’s high-intensity lighting system, reliable.

    I would recomend it to everyone, since the aircraft are pressurize, so even those with breathing problems can enjoy the trip (^_^)

    Newport Notifier Norm

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