2018-12-08 / News

Great Lakes Air Changes Hands; Winter Service Will Continue

By Stephanie Fortino

New Great Lakes Air President Bob Currier (center) Executive Administrator Cindy Huggler, and Vice President and General Manager Brad Shriner. New Great Lakes Air President Bob Currier (center) Executive Administrator Cindy Huggler, and Vice President and General Manager Brad Shriner. Ophthalmologist Bob Currier is taking over Great Lakes Air, the charter aviation company that was founded by Paul Fullerton more than 30 years ago. The airline is the primary link between Mackinac Island and the mainland in the winter, when ice stops ferry boat traffic. Dr. Currier has promised to maintain the level of service Great Lakes Air has provided, and also plans to grow the operation in the future.

Members of his team include Brad Shriner, who will be the vice president and general manager of Great Lakes Air, and executive administrator Cindy Huggler, and they came with Dr. Currier to a city Transportation Committee meeting in October, which Mayor Doud called to discuss winter airplane service needs. Councilmember Dennis Bradley provided insight into how Mackinac Island Airport runs, as he recently retired from Mackinac State Historic Parks as the assistant airport manager.

The new operators of Great Lakes Air promised the Island will have air taxi services available throughout the winter, and Dr. Currier noted he wanted to squelch rumors that air service to the Island would end. Services will be available for mainland contractors, and flights can be coordinated on short notice in emergencies.

“Our goal is to service the Island,” Mr. Shriner said. “It’s just a matter of a phone call.”

The group acquired the Alpena airplane service company, Aviation North, about two weeks before the committee meeting. The company will eventually be merged with the operation in St. Ignace, he said, and the entire company will be operate under the name “Great Lakes Air.”

The company will use Mr. Fullerton’s planes to begin with, which include two Cherokee Six planes that can haul five people and one pilot and a six-seat Patenavia twin engine plane that can hold six passengers and the pilot.

Eventually, the company will bring bigger and faster planes from Alpena that will be flown with two pilots at all times, Dr. Currier said. Included will be a pressurized King Air plane that seats six people and two pilots and a pressurized Baron plane. The planes will be able to fly through clouds and low ceilings, and they fly much faster.

Once the new operation is up and running, Mr. Shriner said the new Great Lakes Air fleet will be able to fly to Mackinac Island in clouds, which it hasn’t been able to do because St. Ignace doesn’t have weather reporting capability. Currently, pilots fly according to visual flight regulations, but with the new planes from Alpena, the aircraft will be able to fly to Pellston and use GPS to position the plane with the Island runway for landing. Flying down to Pellston to line up would only add a few minutes to the flights, he said, taking a total of about 15 minutes to fly from St. Ignace to the Island, rather than about five minutes.

Mr. Shriner said rates will stay the same for now, and would only increase minimally, if needed.

Mr. Fullerton will stay on as the airport manager for Mackinac County. Airplane service to Bois Blanc Island will also continue as it does now.

“We have big shoes to fill,” he said, “but we want to do that, and better.”

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