HYANNIS – After 32 years as Founder and CEO, Dan Wolf hands over the management of Cape Air to current President Linda Markham.

Wolf will step down as CEO on January 1. Markham will assume this role as one of the few female CEOs of airlines in the world and the only one of a major or regional airline in the United States. Cape Air employees have been briefed on the management changes this morning.

“This is a good time for the organization and for Linda,” Wolf said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. “She’s just a wonderful person and leader.”

Markham is not what many might consider a traditional CEO. Married with three children, she did not graduate from business school and attributed her rise to Cape Air to hard work.

“I’m just incredibly excited to take on this new role and I’m excited for the opportunities ahead,” Markham said in an interview on Friday morning.

Markham joined Cape Air in 2002 as Director of Human Resources and quickly rose through the ranks to become Director and then Vice President of Human Resources in 2006. In 2010, she was appointed Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer and then President. of the company in 2014, leading the day-to-day operations of the airline for the past seven years.

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During part of that time, Wolf was engaged as the state senator representing the Cape and Islands District for three terms from 2011 to 2017. Wolf seriously considered a 2018 gubernatorial candidacy against the current Governor Charlie Baker, and showed up unsuccessfully in a crowded field. in 2014 to take the seat of Governor Deval Patrick, who did not stand for re-election.

This week Baker said he would not be running for another term, but Wolf, without directly saying he was not going to run, said the time of his announcement on Friday that he was stepping down from his post Cape Air’s CEO position was pure coincidence.

“A good organization is always committed to succession planning,” said Wolf. “This is something that we have been working on at Cape Air for years.”

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Who is Linda Markham?

Markham graduated in Business and Retail Management from Holyoke Community College. She is the past president of the Regional Airline Association and president of the non-profit organization Women in Aviation International. In 2020, she was elected chair of the board of directors of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.

“She is a very good communicator and a leader at heart,” said Wolf.

“Dan and I share the same values ​​of putting people first,” she said, attributing her background in human resources. Markham said she would like to use her CEO role to continue to provide new opportunities for women in male-dominated aviation.

Cape Air’s place in the airline industry

According to a profile on Markham on Cape Air’s website, the company had around 300 employees and served 17 cities when it started in 2012. Wolf said it now has around 800 employees, serving 38 cities in the United States. and the Caribbean and generated approximately $ 105 million in revenue last year.

A press release announcing the move said Cape Air is one of the largest commuter airlines in the United States. It is owned by its employees and is based in Hyannis. Wolf started the company in 1989 with a three-flight route per day between Boston and Provincetown with 8,000 passengers per year.

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Cape Air now has 100 planes making 400 flights per day and carrying half a million passengers per year.

All of this growth has occurred despite some difficult years; a few severe recessions, September 11, and now a global pandemic entering its third year.

“The airline industry is very capital intensive, highly regulated and competitive. Whenever there is a shock to the economy and society, the airline industry is first in and last out,” he said. Wolf said. After the COVID-19 hit in March 2020 and the shutdown of everything, Cape Air’s operations, like those of all airlines, fell to zero in April.

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It was a difficult comeback that required government help, but Wolf said the airline industry still faces challenges and that did not weigh in on his decision to quit.

“Part of what is enjoyable is taking on challenges and taking them on,” he said. “We are ahead of what we were three years ago, before COVID.”

Wolf said the company currently has no further expansion plans on the table, but is still looking for opportunities.

“We are a growing company and I see growth in our future,” he said.

Flanked by a new Italian twin-engine Tecnam P2012 aircraft, Cape Air CEO Dan Wolf welcomes the crowd to his company's 30th anniversary party in 2019 and presents the aircraft at Cape Cod Gateway Airport in Hyannis.

Cape Air’s future challenges

One of the biggest challenges Cape Air and the airline industry in general face is finding qualified aircraft pilots and technicians, Markham said. COVID-19 has decimated the ranks of airline workers, especially pilots, with layoffs and early retirements.

Markham said Cape Air has been able to partner with flight schools, Jet Blue and the LIFT Academy pilot training program to develop pilots. Cape Air has also worked with Cape Cod Community College to set up an aircraft engine mechanic certification program.

“These are very well paying jobs,” she said.

Wolf will remain chairman of the board of the company and work on certain strategic and long-term projects such as plans to bring in electric planes to replace current gasoline planes. He also serves on the boards of directors of Cape Cod Five and the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown and chairs the board of directors of the Aids Support Group.

Wolf is 65 this year and he and his wife recently became grandparents. He has three daughters, two of whom live off Cape Town, and he sees more tours and trips.

“I will remain committed to Cape Air, but anytime you’ve been at something for 33 years, it’s a good time to sit down and regroup,” Wolf said.

Contact Doug Fraser at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.