Frontier closer to OK for turboprop service

Frontier Airlines appears on track to win federal approval next week for its new turboprop service after setbacks delayed the launch several times.

Final certification would allow the carrier to begin flying its new Q400 propeller-driven planes between Denver and nearby mountain towns and smaller cities. Frontier's new Lynx Aviation subsidiary will operate the flights.

"If all goes well and according to plan we anticipate certification on Dec. 7," said Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Denver-based discount carrier is about 50 percent done with its "proving," or test, runs.

Frontier is hopeful it can receive certification even earlier in the week, but "there are plenty of variables between now and then that could affect that date," said company spokesman Joe Hodas.

The carrier expects to being flying the planes roughly 48 hours after receiving certification.

Frontier will use the turboprops between Denver and Sioux City, Iowa; Rapid City, S.D.; Wichita; Billings, Mont.; and Albuquerque. It also eventually plans to serve cities and towns in Colorado such as Aspen, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs, although the carrier declined to say when it will announce additional destinations.

"Right now we're just focused on getting certification," Hodas said.

Frontier had planned to start the Lynx service as early as last summer but has been delayed several times because of delivery issues and a longer-than-expected certification process.

The delays have proved somewhat costly. Frontier now has six idle turboprop planes, which cost about $25 million each.

Lynx is a key part of Frontier's strategy to expand into new markets that have limited air service. The carrier, which is Denver's second-largest airline, hopes to feed traffic from the smaller cities into its overall system.