Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 6:55 PM on Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Airline company expands its Homer operations Grant spreads its wings

By McKibben Jackinsky

People and planes — it's a winning combination for Grant Aviation, who is spreading out its Homer operations. Two planes, a maintenance facility and the addition of four full-time jobs — three pilots and a mechanic — are giving the company a "settled" look in the Homer community. That's in addition to three full-time ticket agents and one of Grant's three owners that make their home on the shores of Kachemak Bay.


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

Jeff Taggart of Homer, one of Grant Aviation's three owners, and Deb Moseley, a pilot and manager of Grant's Homer station manager.

"We like to hire people who are from the area. That's what we really try to do," said Jeff Taggart, who, along with Bruce McGlasson and Mark "Woody" Richard, own Grant Aviation.

Since 2008, Taggart, who handles Grant's accounting, has lived in Homer. His schedule has required him to fly to Anchorage on Monday mornings and return home Friday evenings. But with the development of the Homer station, Taggart said he is hoping to be able to work a little closer to home.

Formed as Delta Air Services in Emmonak in 1971, Grant Aviation provides transportation to passengers across the state, with service to more than 100 communities and base operations in Anchorage, Bethel, Dillingham, Homer, Emmonak and Kenai. In 2004, Taggart, McGlasson and Richard, who were working for Grant at the time, pooled their expertise and their finances and bought the company.

A contract with Homer Electric Association to provide air transportation on a Cessna 207 for employees between Homer and HEA's Bradley Lake operations and sites on the south side of Kachemak Bay was a decision-maker in developing Grant's Homer station, according to Taggart.

"It was a two-year contract and we're just in the process of renegotiating it," Taggart said.

The purchase of an 80-foot-by-100-foot hangar has been another step in solidifying the airline company's Homer presence. In January, Tom Lapp moved to Homer from Anchorage to take over the reins of the new facility. Insulation, wiring, heat, water and sewage have been added, as well as office space, a portion of which will soon provide Hallo Bay Bear Lodge with an airport presence.

The building also includes office space for Grant Aviation; however, the airline also will maintain its office in the Homer Airport terminal.

"We're growing in momentum, doing more business in the places where we're at, adding airplanes and expanding schedules," said Taggart, pointing out that in Bethel a second office has been opened that caters to charter business. The HEA contract, as well as charter flights, are boosting Homer's activity; and, beginning June 1, Grant will begin providing daily commuter service between Anchorage and Valdez.

For the Homer-Anchorage flights, Grant operates a Piper Chieftain and this summer also will run a King Air, according to Deb Moseley, Homer station manager and pilot. Each plane has a nine-passenger capacity and twin engines, but the King Air is faster, shortening the flights between Homer and Anchorage by about 10 minutes. It also can carry more weight.

"So, with all the fish boxes, we'll be running more King Air flights," Moseley said, her eyes on shipments of fish. "I suspect if this summer is anything like last summer, there will be a lot of King Air flights back and forth."

Looking to the future, Moseley said having the maintenance facility might mean adding a couple more mechanics. The company also is considering adding flights to Kodiak this summer. Charter flights will be an opportunity to test that market before adding trips to the island community to Grant's schedule.

"There's a lot happening. It's really exciting and a little overwhelming, too, but we're very excited about the change," said Moseley, who previously flew for Smokey Bay Air and Bald Mountain Air. She began flying for Grant Aviation in September and was named station manager April 1.

"I've been excited to be part of this expansion and be able to stay in Homer."

A recently revamped Web site offers passengers an opportunity to stay informed of Grant's schedule and special rates being offered. Currently, a fare for graduating high school seniors is available; there are rates for buying tickets in bulk, an offering especially beneficial to North Slope workers; there is a discount for children and senior citizens; and there is a rewards program.

"Another thing coming soon is online reservations," Moseley said. "It's slated to come out this month. You'll be able to get on (the site) and reserve your own flight. Or, if you don't want to talk to a computer, you can pick up the phone or send an e-mail."

All these changes are designed to benefit the company, but they do it by benefiting people in the communities they serve as well as the people who are their employees.

"There's a benefit to Homer, as well as Valdez and, hopefully, Kodiak in having more than one air carrier. Airfares are less expensive. It's really good for the consumer," said Moseley. "One of the things about Homer is that it's hard for a lot of people that want to stay here is finding a decent job. That's why there are so many Slope and Valdez workers. It's exciting to be part of this and create jobs so families can be here and keep Homer strong."

Visit Grant Aviation on the Web at www.flygrant.com.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky.@homernews.com.