A sudden bankruptcy filing and looming service cutbacks by Alaska-based Peninsula Airways spurred Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., to say she "will continue to shore up support for the Essential Air Service program" that gives federal subsidies to carriers providing commercial air service to small and rural airports.
A number of state departments of transportation strongly back that program as a way to provide air travel options to small-population centers, especially in states with large geographic areas or with physical features that make towns hard to reach by highways. Many state DOTs also either directly own airports or provide financial support to them for infrastructure projects.
President Trump has proposed to end the EAS subsidies, though congressional committees have voted to retain the program in proposed House and Senate appropriations bills for the 2018 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
PenAir said in an Aug. 7 press release that under its Chapter 11 reorganization plan, it is filing a request with the USDOT to end Essential Air Service routes between Crescent City, Calif., and Portland, Ore., and all regional routes served from its Denver hub.
That would include, it said, EAS routes operating between Denver and Liberal and Dodge City, Kan., and North Platte, Kearney and Scottsbluff, Neb., "Once approved, this transition usually takes 30 to 90 days until a new carrier can be secured in the market," PenAir said.
Fischer is a member of the Commerce Committee that oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, serves on its aviation subcommittee and chairs the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.
In response to the PenAir announcement, with its planned service cuts to three Nebraska communities,
Fischer on Aug. 7 issued the following statement:
"Today's news regarding PenAir is concerning for Nebraskans, especially those in our state's rural areas and the Panhandle. Reliable air service connects our families, businesses, and communities to the rest of our country and the world.
"As Congress considers the FAA reauthorization this year, I will continue to shore up support for the Essential Air Service program. I will also work to reduce burdensome regulations that harm Nebraska's small and community airports by reducing the number of available pilots and increasing service costs."
Photo / Essential Air Service website.
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