Empire Airlines of Coeur d’Alene is expanding its operation to paradise.
The air freight and aircraft maintenance company has a three-year deal with Hawaiian Airlines to operate its island hop service to Lanai and Molokai under the name Ohana by Hawaiian.
The service, which begins this summer, will fly ATR 42 twin-turboprops built by a French and Italian aerospace consortium.
This will be Empire’s first venture into passenger service since the mid-1990s, when it turned its business model toward heavy aircraft maintenance and freight service.
“This is a great addition to what we are doing now,” company President and CEO Tim Komberec said.
The new service out of Honolulu is intended to link overseas travelers and locals with Hawaiian’s network of flights to North America and the Asia-Pacific region.
Empire is expecting to hire 45 employees for the Ohana operation and Hawaiian is adding 50 to its own workforce because of the new Ohana service.
The new Empire employees likely will be Hawaiian residents, Komberec said, but he didn’t rule out the possibility that current Empire employees might get the chance to transfer to the islands.
Empire currently employs 45 pilots and maintenance workers in Spokane, 180 employees in Coeur d’Alene and another 160 workers on its freight routes from Anchorage to Shreveport, La.
Staff in Coeur d’Alene will provide some of the support for the Hawaiian operation.
The word Ohana means family in Hawaiian.
The 48-passenger aircraft are going to sport a design by Hawaiian graphic artist and fabric designer Sig Zane. The fuselage rearward from the wings and the tail will be decorated with a design derived from the traditional kapa print fabric.