Dear Chairman Latham:
We write to you regarding language contained in the FY2012 House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) funding bill that will negatively impact the Essential Air Service (EAS) within our communities. The language contained in the bill implements an October 1, 2011 deadline for any new airports to be included in the EAS program.
As you may be aware, airports go through a length process in applying for the EAS program. After an airline declares that they will be eliminating service to an airport, it takes 90 days for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to give other parties the opportunity to bid on serving the area. Currently, there are at least 7 airports that are within that 90-day period, including the Bert Mooney Airport in Butte, Montana, Waterloo Regional Airport in Waterloo, Iowa, Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City, Iowa, Aberdeen Regional Airport in Aberdeen, South Dakota and Bemidiji Regional Airport in Bemidiji, Minnesota. In the case of these airports, their 90-day application period will not conclude until 12 days after the cut-off date; a deadline that the applicant airports could not have foreseen back when they submitted their applications in July.
As you know, EAS serves a vital role in connecting our constituents with the rest of the country and is truly an essential service to much of rural America. We urge you to extend the deadline to October 15, 2011, a date that would permit these airports the time needed to complete their application process, or to simply amend the current language to include any airport that is currently going through the application process with the DOT.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need additional information.