Scenic airplane rides canceled, city and company can’t compromise

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By Correne Martin

 

Scenic and public airplane rides provided by Walter Aviation, of Independence, Iowa, at the Prairie du Chien Municipal Airport, were canceled within days of the scheduled offerings last weekend because the company did not agree to a special flying service operator agreement. The contract, which included fees of $1,000, was presented by the city’s airport commission and Aviation Concessions Inc. (ACI), the facility’s operator. 

In a Courier Press letter to the editor written by Walter Aviation President Jonathan Walter, he said, “Unfortunately, Walter Aviation will not be there this weekend, nor this coming fall.” 

During the same weekend in 2016, Walter Aviation staged several planes at the airport, conducting 15-minute sightseeing tours for $25 per passenger, with a maximum of three riders per plane, as well as less popular, five-minute aerobatic flights for $125 per passenger, allowing only one passenger aboard.

City Administrator Art Osten Jr. said the city’s implementation of the fees was to help recoup some of its costs for staff overseeing the rides, ongoing airport maintenance, etc.

“We wanted to work with them,” Osten said. “We were originally asking $250 per day, per plane, but we realized that was going to be in excess of $22,000, so we settled on $1,000.”

“The costs to operate, maintain and staff a fleet of airplanes is not cheap,” Walter said in his letter, noting that the company desires to keep its rates reasonable. “The airport should be finding other ways to cover their day-to-day expenses, rather than jabbing an operator who is trying to help promote the airport and provide a quality service to the public.”

Osten added that the agreement was also the city’s way of covering safety expectations of the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics.

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