JOHNSTOWN -- Three local rural airports could lose millions in federal funding, threatening to shut down commercial traffic.
Two weeks ago, the Department of Transportation issued a regulation to tentatively end Essential Air Service to the DuBois Regional Airport, John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport and the Altoona-Blair County Airport.
Flight aren't expected to be canceled because of this, Altoona airport manager Tracy Plessinger said.
But the three local airports are currently reviewing essential air service bids at this time and waiting to appeal for a waiver. The EAS is how the federal government pays to keep passenger flights going to small airports. DOT announced an order to tentatively terminate the EAS eligibility last Friday. It wrote in its order that the airports should show cause why the DOT should not terminate this program.
It is looking at eliminating Essential Air Service the three airports because it either did not enplane an average of 10 or more passengers per day and/or the subsidy rate per passenger exceeded $200.
Johnstown and DuBois both met the enplanement per day threshold, according to DOT data, but were over the limit for subsidies. The airport in DuBois received $2.2 million in subsidies, but has a rate per passenger of $324.
For the Johnstown airport, $2.34 million in subsidies came in, but its rate per passenger was $276.
Altoona did not meet either threshold, according to the department. The airport enplaned an average of 7.3 passengers per day, under the 10 of more per day expectation. Last year it received $1.9 million in subsidies, equating to $420 rate per passenger, according to the DOT.
Plessinger said the airport will appeal for waiver. He said that while there was not a technical interruption of service, the current airline did not begin flying until December. Airport staff is currently looking over three EAS bids for the next year, Plessinger said.
Plessinger sent 6 News a statement on Friday, which reads in part:
The airport and community will work closely with our state, local and federal leaders to demonstrate to the dot the struggles with air service in recent years at Altoona and work to grant us a waiver to continue receiving subsidy service.
"There's a per seat cap of $200 that the airline has exceeded and so we need to address that with a waiver so we're working on that," said Bob Shaffer, DuBois Airport manager, said in an interview with 6News on Thursday.
The order gives the airports 20 days to submit objections.
Those are objections to the data. Another final order will be released at a later date for the waiver application.
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