Saturday, August 5, 2017

Schumer visits Adirondack Regional Airport (KSLK), says he’ll fight for small airport subsidies

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., visits Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear Friday.

LAKE CLEAR — U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer visited the Adirondack Regional Airport Friday to say he’s fighting President Donald Trump’s plan to stop helping small airports provide passenger air service.

The Trump administration’s 2018 budget would eliminate the Essential Air Service program, which helps pay for passenger air service at small, rural airports across the country that wouldn’t have it otherwise. Of the six New York airports that receive EAS subsidies, five are in the North Country: Adirondack in Lake Clear, Massena, Ogdensburg, Watertown and Plattsburgh. Jamestown, in the state’s southwest corner, also receives EAS funds.

In a 62-page proposal released in February, Trump’s office deemed EAS a temporary program, a relic from the late 1970s. The White House said EAS-funded flights are often not full and have high subsidy costs per passenger.

Schumer, D-N.Y., said at the time that eliminating EAS program would be “reckless and counterproductive.” He repeated those words Friday, and then some, adding that it would undermine the local economy and force residents to drive hours to the next closest airport. If passenger service ended at all five EAS-funded North Country airports, plane passengers would have to drive to and from Albany, Burlington, Vermont, Montreal or Syracuse.

“Let me be clear: These proposed cuts are wrong-headed and reckless,” Schumer said. “They would be devastating for the North Country’s airports like Adirondack Regional Airport. Communities across the region rely on this program and the service these airports provide. Residents deserve to enjoy convenient, reliable air service in their own communities. It creates jobs, energizes our economy and improves quality of life. I will fight tooth and nail to stop that from happening. Our job is to support families and grow communities. This unnecessary cut would do just the opposite.”

The program provides more than $1.8 million a year to subsidize Cape Air’s three daily round-trip flights year-round between Adirondack Regional and Boston’s Logan International Airport on Cessna 402 airplanes, which hold nine passengers each. Cape Air is the only commercial carrier currently flying out of Adirondack Regional, which is owned and run by the town of Harrietstown. The airport served more than 9,000 passengers a year, according to Schumer’s office.

Schumer said many regional airports have worked to decrease reliance on the EAS program, but he warned that eliminating the federal support in 2018 could wipe out airline services completely, delivering a massive blow to the North Country’s economy.

According to Schumer’s office, Massena International Airport, which recently chose Boutique Air to provide service this year, served 10,554 passengers in 2016, and Ogdensburg International Airport served about 8,233 passengers through its EAS contract with Cape Air last year. Both airports offer service to both Boston and Albany. Plattsburgh served 13,432 passengers through its EAS contract with PenAir, with service to Boston.

Joining Schumer at the Lake Clear airport were state Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay; Franklin County Legislature Chairwoman Barb Rice, D-Saranac Lake; Sue Matton, vice president of the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce; and local business and community leaders.

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