Sen. Daines demands answer on SkyWest Charter’s Commuter application

© Shutterstock

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) called for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to explain why SkyWest Charter’s application for Commuter Air Carrier Authorization had not yet been reviewed.

In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Asst. Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Carol Petsonk, Daines demanded answers as to why the company’s application had stalled, saying the service will connect communities like Butte and West Yellowstone to the rest of the state and the nation. The application has been unresolved for 19 months, he said.

“As you know, SkyWest is seeking commuter authority in an effort to combat the ongoing pilot shortage while continuing to provide and expand air service to small communities across the country,” Daines wrote. “Air service is not a luxury for many rural Montanans, but rather a necessity. Without reliable air service, they often cannot access critical medical services and many communities rely upon the economic lifeline it provides. Communities like Butte and West Yellowstone stand to bear the brunt of the negative consequences from continued inaction, including hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of economic activity lost.”

Daines said he previously wrote to the DOT in June 2023, and that other Montana community groups had reached out as well.

“Even in the face of the FAA’s potential tightening of charter regulations, SkyWest has continually committed to exceed the baseline safety standards required to operate under Part 135, including hiring pilots that meet the 1,500-hour requirement for an ATP license, as well as any additional requirements that may be adopted by the FAA as part of the rulemaking process,” he wrote. “With this and the growing need for small community air service in mind, it is impossible to understand the 19-month delay in consideration of the airline’s application. I reiterate my call for an expeditious review and full consideration of SkyWest’s application for commuter authority to ensure safe, reliable, and quality air service can continue to be maintained in Montana’s rural communities.”

Daines is asking for the USDOT to let him know what the average length of time such applications usually take, and if there are additional documents or data the company need to provide in order to complete the review.