Air taxi service comes to eastern Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Air taxi service comes to eastern Iowa


Waterloo (KWWL) -- With rising airfares and fewer people flying, some air travelers are trying a different way to fly.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the number of passengers flying out of the Waterloo Regional Airport has steadily gone down since 2000, when more than 54,000 flew from there.

Last year, less than 29,000 flew from there.

However, a different kind of air service hopes to bring more traffic at the airport.

It's not commercial air service but it's not exactly a charter service, either.

It's called an air taxi.

It's a new on-demand point-to-point service being offered not just in Waterloo but at just about every airport in eastern Iowa.

Midwest Air Taxi has two planes based in Waterloo.

The Cirrus SR-22 seats four people and can fly anywhere in about an 800-mile radius.

The thinking is, commercial air service and driving are too expensive and time-consuming for many eastern iowa business travelers.

"A lot of trips we've been in discussions with different businesses about are day trips. People need to travel for a meeting or convention or a show. Go out in the morning, come back in the evening. Currently, if they're driving they may have to spend the night or it's a really long day," says Ben Frein, Midwest Air Taxi CEO.

Midwest Air Taxi lets flyers split the cost of their flight - sometimes making it much cheaper than charters which serve Waterloo or Northwest Airlines, the city's only commercial carrier.

"The demand, I think, will grow over time. It's a new concept," says Greater Cedar Valley Alliance President/CEO Steve Dust. "In terms of the business traveler, it's going to be a real benefit to the Cedar Valley to be an innoveator in this kind of air service."

However, some companies won't let their employees fly in a single engine plane.

Midwest Air Taxi says its planes are flown by more experienced pilots and have a unique feature.

"It actually has a parachute that is designed for the whole aircraft. If there's a situation where the pilot couldn't safely land, they can pull the chute, the pilot and the occupants can gently land on the ground. It's a proven concept that's saved numerous lives," says David LeCompte, Midwest Air Taxi Co-owner.

While LeCompte and others hope that parachute never has to be used, they're confident air taxi service will catch on.

"You literally walk in, get a safety briefing from the pilot and you can literally be in the air within 5 to 10 minutes," says LeCompte.

As for the prices, you may have to trade cost for time.

A flight from Waterloo to Chicago runs $1270.

However, if you or the company finds two others willing to split the cost, it's about $423 per person.

For more information, click here.

Online Reporter: Bob Waters


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