Friday, February 3, 2012

Jamestown, New York: Chautauqua County/Jamestown Airport (KJHW) To Keep Federal Subsidy.

February 3, 2012
By Nicholas L. Dean , The Post-Journal

The Jamestown airport will make the cut and keep its federal subsidy, according to U.S. Rep. Charles Schumer.

Schumer said Thursday that the FAA bill agreed upon in committee Tuesday will preserve the Essential Air Service funding which the Chautauqua County Airport at Jamestown has received for years.

Last year, the airport benefited from $1,350,803 in federal funding, Schumer reported. That funding helped make commercial air service economical at the airport.

The Essential Air Service program provides subsidies to airlines which fly from small airports such as Jamestown's. Federal subsidies have been required in recent years for airlines to fly from Jamestown.

Without this funding, commercial service at Jamestown would likely have ended entirely.

Schumer aggressively pushed the transportation secretary and his Senate colleagues to reach an agreement that would preserve EAS funding for Jamestown. The final agreement would stop EAS funding at airports with fewer than 10 enplanements per day or a ticket subsidy of over $1,000. As Jamestown averages over 10 flights per day and the ticket subsidy amounts to less than $1,000, Jamestown will continue to receive EAS funding under this legislation.

The bill, as agreed upon in committee, is set to pass Congress, Schumer said.

"This is a major victory for Jamestown passengers and businesses alike," Schumer said. "I went to bat for Jamestown because this service says it all in the name - it's 'essential.' Major businesses rely on it to make sure they can get to meetings and bring in new work that creates jobs, and travelers need it to access destinations across the country. Preserving Essential Air Service will be a shot in the arm for Chautauqua County, and could help us attract more businesses and jobs to Western New York."

LOCAL EAS

Throughout 2011, the Essential Air Service program had been looked at as an area to cut in the FAA extenders. The Chautauqua County Airport at Jamestown was one of several considered for elimination. Currently, if rural airports are within 70 miles of a hub airport, they cannot qualify for the subsidy. There had been talk in 2011 of increasing that cut off distance from 70 to 90 miles.

According to The Associated Press, the government spends about $200 million each year on the Essential Air Service program now. That amount will drop to about $190 million a year as a result of the bill agreed upon Tuesday. The program will also be limited to the 150 communities that now receive subsidized service, the AP reported. No new communities will be allowed to enter the program.

In pushing to preserve EAS funding at Jamestown, Schumer noted that Western New York's ferocious winter weather often makes it extremely difficult for travelers to reach Buffalo Niagara International, and that EAS plays a critical role in the Chautauqua County economy.

The Essential Air Service program was developed after the airline industry was deregulated in 1978. Deregulation gave airlines the freedom to decide which markets to serve and how much to charge for that service. That led to a scarcity of air service in many rural communities across the country where operating costs were higher and populations were less dense. Recognizing the fundamental role which air travel plays in rural development, the EAS program was put in to place to guarantee air service to underserved communities. EAS provides subsidies to commuter airlines across the country to serve approximately 140 rural communities, including seven communities, like Jamestown, in Upstate New York.

When pushing to preserve the service, Schumer stressed the airport's importance to the local economy - pointing to Cummins Inc., as an example of a pillar of the economy which benefits from a thriving local airport.

Cummins bought their Jamestown engine plant in 1974 and built their first engine in 1978. Since that time, the plant has become a flagship manufacturing facility for Cummins with 1,450 employees who helped the company reach its 1-millionth engine milestone in 2008.

The Jamestown plant is expected to be a key part of Cummins growth by reaching their 2-millionth engine milestone in 2015. The numbers clearly demonstrate the critical importance of the company's Jamestown workforce and manufacturing facility. Efficient movement of personnel is vital to the smooth operation of the engine plant. The Jamestown airport allows Cummins to quickly and safely transport employees to the plant without having to travel long distances. Schumer noted that the benefits that Cummins employees used the airport for both business and tourism, as thousands of individuals from other companies throughout Western New York have done.

"I'm thrilled that these flights will keep coming in and out of Jamestown," Schumer said. "Access to affordable air travel is absolutely critical in our rural communities in Western New York, and today's news marks a giant step forward in ensuring we have it for years to come."

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