New airline plans routes through Colorado Springs

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Tim Rivers refuses to relinquish his dream. Despite the backfiring of his efforts to secure private funding last year, his perseverance may have paid off in bigger bucks this time around. His new airline just might get off the ground by the end of this year and the Colorado Springs Airport might be its first nest.

As owner of Tampa, Fla.-based Crystal Airways, Rivers wants Colorado Springs to be his first stop on the road to success. He is awaiting approval from bond buyers for “significantly more” money than what was promised – but not delivered – last year by The Capital Consulting Group. Rivers said the $100 million he was expecting from the Seattle, Wash.-based company did not pan out. Capital was providing a bank guaranty for a third party, who decided the terms were unacceptable, said Rivers.

However, the undisclosed investors he is dealing with now are financially well connected, he said, adding that he has not run into any “snags” during his five months of dialogue. His Web site states that the funding group is “confident they will have this matter completed shortly.” Since Jan. 23, Crystal Airways has been waiting for a final term sheet and closing date, the Web site said.

Once funding is secured, Rivers will resume discussions with the Colorado Springs Airport to secure gate space and, possibly, counter space. He will then apply for certification from the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration. The first determines if his airline is economically fit, and the second qualifies his airline meets safety standards.

Rivers hopes to be in operation with seven planes by the end of this year. He would like to either lease or purchase seven Boeing 757-200’s that seat 92 passengers. His airline will target business travelers with ticket prices nearly 40 percent below walk-up coach prices on other airlines. His Web site shows flights would travel to and from Seattle, San Diego and Los Angeles.

Twenty-three people have been hired to fill most of the major positions including pilots, the director of operations, and the director of maintenance. Although Rivers said he would hire service-counter and ramp staff from the Springs community, he isn’t yet sure how many he will need. His business plan includes expansion to other unnamed markets within the airline’s first year of operation and aims to add 400 to 600 people to the payroll.

Rivers is tight-lipped about routes and prices, he says, because of concerns about competition his airline will offer flights to about 10 cities with most offering coast-to-coast service. Some routes would be north and south, and he might offer an intermediate route, he added.

“We (he and the seven board members) like the fact there were a lot of Silicon Valley companies moving to the Colorado Springs area,” said Rivers. “We liked the traffic numbers we saw from different airports going to Colorado Springs. Since Denver is growing and Colorado Springs is growing north and DIA is a pain in the butt, we said rather than going head-to-head with United (Airlines) at DIA, let’s look at something in that area. Colorado Springs is a logical choice.”