U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, top Democrat on House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Senator Joe Manchin III (all D-W.Va.) today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has selected air carrier Silver Airways to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) at Raleigh County Memorial Airport in Beckley for a two-year term of service, replacing Colgan Air, which plans to end its flight service at Beckley on July 31, 2012.
"This is truly a silver lining in our quest to prepare for the Boy Scouts Jamboree and their High Adventure camps, and it's essential to business, government and leisure travelers," said Rahall. "I remain committed to fighting for federal investments to improve our roads and airports in southern West Virginia, particularly as we grow our economy to meet our growing population in Raleigh County and our region."
"This is a great first step to make sure residents in Beckley maintain commercial air service. I'm encouraged by the interest that Beckley has received, and that Silver Airways is committed to serving West Virginia," said Rockefeller, who has become the leading defender of EAS service in the Senate. "I've continued to say that rural air service in West Virginia is critical -- it creates jobs and helps our economy grow. I fought to protect EAS funding for West Virginia's airports, and this announcement for Beckley helps make certain the region is not left out."
"I am so pleased that Silver Airways will replace Colgan Air, ensuring that safe and reliable transportation is available to residents and businesses in Beckley," Manchin said. "In order for our state to remain competitive and attract new jobs and industries, we must offer businesses the type of transportation they require. Quality infrastructure is so important to our economy, and this announcement is good news for West Virginia."
Tom Cochran, director at the airport, is pleased with Silver Airway's proposal to provide 26 weekly frequencies contingent upon a code-share agreement with United. "We're excited to have DOT's approval, and certainly appreciate the help provided by Congressman Rahall to ensure air service continues in our area. Frankly, without the Essential Air Service our citizens would not have access to reliable air transportation."
For Beckley, Silver Airways, previously known as Gulfstream International Airlines, proposes to operate 13 round trips per week (seven nonstops and six one-stops at an intermediate point to be determined at a later date) to Washington's Dulles International Airport for an annual subsidy of $2,664,565. The service proposed is one round trip per week more than what the DOT requested for Beckley. Service would be operated with 34-passenger Saab 340B+ aircraft. The carrier is proposing to operate flights under its existing code-share with United Airlines, however, a definitive agreement extending that code-share had not been reached at the time of filing and, therefore, the proposal was contingent upon that agreement being finalized.