What happened to San Diego’s future hometown airline?
When California Pacific Airlines rolled out a freshly painted, completely refurbished plane at a big media party last July, the company expected to be “wheels up” by now — flying a fleet of five Brazilian-made Embraer 170 jets to the Bay Area, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Sacramento, and into Mexico. The Carlsbad-based company, headquartered at McClellan-Palomar airport, still awaits FAA certification.
The airline recently announced the hiring of a new CEO to help expedite the process. John Salvaggio, a former American Airlines executive, says starting an airline is almost as hard as starting up a nuclear-power plant.
The week of March 25, the company heard from the FAA that the certification is being accelerated, but the agency is also bogged down by the federal government’s economic belt-tightening. The last airline to be certified by the FAA was Virgin America in 2007. (One has to wonder what the FAA “certification” department has been doing for the past five years.)
Undaunted by the fact that every major airline (with the exception of Jet Blue and Southwest) has declared bankruptcy at some point during the past 25 years, Salvaggio believes the overall financial health of the industry “is the best it ever has been.” Recent financial headlines seem to agree, citing lower oil prices and airline consolidation — meaning less flights and fuller planes.
Once FAA-certified, it will take up to six months for the new airline to create itself — hire pilots, flight attendants, ground and gate crews, reservation agents, and marketing to the flying public.
In an interview with the San Diego Daily Transcript, Salvaggio stated, “We then have to sell tickets. We don’t want to start flying air [empty planes].”
The company is hopeful that FAA certification will be received over the summer, with flights beginning in November.