California Pacific Airlines

This Embraer jet leased by California Pacific Airlines — and just painted and re-branded from Aerodynamics Inc., in August 2018 — flew into Pierre only for a few months until Jan. 17, 2019, when CPAir quit flying.

California Pacific Airlines, which abruptly quit flying to Pierre on Jan. 17, 2019, still owes the city $41,950.19, Brooke Bohnenkamp, city communications director, told the Capital Journal on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Meanwhile, CPAir’s elderly but enthusiastic owner, Ted Vallas, just last month submitted another proposal to federal Department of Transportation officials seeking another certificate to allow him to fly commercial-scheduled passenger service out of Carlsbad, north of San Diego.

Vallas, who turns 99 in March, lost his federal certification a year ago after he quit flying flights around California as well as the federally subsidized 12 weekly flights from Watertown to Pierre to Denver, which he inherited when he bought Aerodynamics Inc./SkyValue in early 2018.

A former CPAir employee in Pierre who worked at the terminal getting passengers on and off flights told the Capital Journal that Vallas and his company still owe ex-employees here some paychecks, as well.

Motel owners in Watertown and Pierre told the Capital Journal a year ago that CPAir owed them money for putting up pilots and flight attendants and other employees.

The city of Pierre’s bill with CPAir is mostly for fees for using the Pierre Regional Airport.

Mayor Steve Harding and City Commissioner Jamie Huizenga said Tuesday that CPAir has not been on their minds much, mostly because the new air carrier in town, SkyWest Airlines, in partnership with United Airlines’ United Express, is going so well since starting flights in early April 2019.

Huizenga announced Tuesday that in January, 1,307 passengers boarded one of the 13 weekly flights that now go non-stop from Pierre to Denver.

A year ago, Pierre watched as California Pacific sort of dropped out of the air, Huizenga said. “They just went out of business.”

“So we are tickled to start the year” with Sky West/United Express, he said. “This is the best position we have been in for decades, from an airline perspective.”

Vallas filed an application with DOT a month ago, asking for confidentiality, but DOT posted it online, according to PaxEx Aero publication and a former CPAir employee in Pierre.

“Yes. Yes. We are planning to resume service,” Vallas told PaxEx Aero. “Definitely.”

Vallas was referring to California flights, not anything to do with Pierre. A year ago he blamed South Dakota weather as part of the difficulties he had keeping his new airline up for more than a few months.

This week, however, California Pacific’s application to DOT is not available and has been excised from the public online record on DOT’s website. It isn’t clear why.

Vallas, a millionaire who built golf resorts, has been trying to get an airline started in the area north of San Diego for about two decades, even if that includes going through bankruptcy. He apparently is still intent on succeeding. But San Diego area news companies have reported that about 90 ex-employees of CPAir are owed pay, still.

Meanwhile, Bohnenkamp told the Capital Journal that city officials have advised “consumers with CPAir complaints” to contact the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Complaints.

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