1998, if I remember correctly.
Here's a better article:
Air charter service to Russia back on track
New backer revives plan to provide quick service between Anchorage and Sakhalin
By Tim Bradner
Alaska Journal of Commerce
Russia Jet Direct hopes to finally get its proposed weekly air service between Alaska and Sakhalin, Russia, off the ground by August and has hired the former chief pilot for Reeve Aleutian Airlines as its operations manager.
The company had planned to begin service last year but was unable to get enough advance bookings, which was critical to start-up financing under its previous business plan.
That shouldn't be a problem now, said Sabrina Ford, president of the Seattle-based company. Rubloff Group of Rockford Ill., operator of several aviation businesses, has taken a majority stake in Russia Jet Direct and has the financial strength to get the new air service launched effectively.
"Rubloff has the depth, the will and the assets to come alongside our expertise to make the air bridge to Sakhalin a reality," Ford said.
Rubloff will make a Boeing 757 available to Russia Jet Direct, which will operate scheduled public charter flights through Ryan International, a subsidiary of Rubloff. Ryan is a FAR
Part 121 certificated international air carrier. It was acquired by Rubloff in August 2004.
Ford said Russia Jet Direct has also hired Phil Bray, former chief pilot for Reeve Aleutian Airlines, as its vice president of operations. Bray will be based in Anchorage.
Through Russia Jet Direct, Ryan will operate a Boeing 757 configured in business and "comfort class" service in a weekly service from Houston and Anchorage to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the major city in Sakhalin.
"Our experience and contacts in Russia and the oil patch will provide our customers a level of service that will ensure our longevity in the market," Bray said.
The aircraft will have 28 business class and 144 comfort-class seats, Ford said. Comfort Class is less expensive than business class but the seats are larger than typical economy-class seats on commercial airlines.
In its initial effort to launch the service in 2004, the company was planning to use a smaller 737-800 that would have carried 144 passengers. The 757 that will now be used will carry 172.
U.S.-based companies operating in Sakhalin now fly personnel on commercial airlines through Tokyo and Seoul, which takes 20 hours from Alaska and 30 hours from Houston. Russia Jet Direct will be get passengers from Houston to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in 15 hours and from Anchorage to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in six hours.
Major western oil producers are heavily engaged in Sakhalin projects. An international consortium led by Shell Oil is building a liquefied natural gas project and pipeline. Another consortium, led by Exxon Mobil Corp., is developing offshore gas fields and plans pipelines to the Russian mainland.
Several Alaska oil service companies, such as Veco Alaska and Arctic Slope Energy Corp. are now working in Sakhalin, and other Alaska firms will be able to compete once direct air service is available, said Greg Wolf, director of the World Trade Center Alaska.
Tim Bradner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org