Forget the freeway. If you're traveling between Salt Lake City and Provo, take to the air.
Rocky Mountain Helicopters will begin offering daily flights between Provo and the Salt Lake International Airport on the newly formed Advantage Airlines in mid-February. The flight time will range from 12 minutes to 20 minutes depending on weather and air-traffic conditions.Rocky Mountain Helicopters will operate two flights between the two cities each day using turboprop planes that seat between 12 and 19 people. Flights will cater to business travelers. Fare costs will be tied to connecting ticket charges.
"We feel like it is something that the area has long needed," said Brett Burr, fixed-wing division general manager for Rocky Mountain Helicopters. "It will help to expand our current airport status and put us on the map as far as people traveling to Provo for business reasons."
A 10-member task force appointed by Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins has investigated the feasibility of operating a commuter line between Provo and Salt Lake City since 1989.
"It is a dream come true," said Carol Thorne, a member of the task force and owner of the Holiday Inn in Provo. "Several business people are aware of it (the new service) and intend to utilize it. Once the community knows, it will be a wonderful way for them to stay out of traffic, parking problems and hassles of driving back and forth to Salt Lake City."
The service will save time for some travelers but will be convenient for all, he said.
Thorne plans to offer shuttle service from her hotel to the Provo Municipal Airport for guests.
The task force surveyed local businesses to gauge interest in commuter air service and found it would be popular with large companies such as Novell, WordPerfect and Dynix, which bring in visitors, guests and conference participants.
A task force also found that on average, Utah County businesses book 2,383 flights out of Salt Lake City monthly and receive 522 visitors or customers via the airport monthly.
Those visitors to Utah County will now be able to fly here and not hassle with renting a car or getting maps and directions.
"I think we need to be able to start somewhere in order to be able to provide air traffic between Provo and Salt Lake, and we're happy Rocky Mountain is willing to step up and provide that service," said Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins. "I think it will be tremendous benefit to businesses in Utah County."
Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce President Steve Densley also is pleased by Rocky Mountain Helicopters' announcement; he predicted that if Seven Peaks ski resort ever gets off the ground, use of the commuter service will soar.
The move by Rocky Mountain Helicopters and Morris Air Service pre-empts a proposal by Gene Mallette, owner of Alpine Aviation in Provo, who met with local business leaders a year ago about starting a commuter link between Provo and the Salt Lake Airport.
"We don't know what we are going to do yet," Mallette said. "We still have an interest but I don't know what we'll do just yet. I wish them well."
Burr said Rocky Mountain does not expect the service to rapidly expand beyond its current arrangement.
"We are controlling and guarding expansion in this area," he said. "We're really hoping it becomes a convenient thing for people rather than an alternate way to get there."