WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, along with U.S. Congressman John Delaney (D-6) (all D-Md.), praised the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for approving a waiver that will allow Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR) to remain part of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had planned to cut HGR from EAS as part of implementation of the FAA Modernization Act of 2012. In order to maintain federal subsidies, the act requires communities to maintain an average of 10 enplanements or more per service day. HGR averaged more than 10 enplanements for most of the last decade with Cape Air providing service. The number dipped in 2013 during the transition to Sun Air, but HGR has already more than doubled its numbers for 2014. In approving the waiver that allows HGR to remain part of the EAS, the FAA acknowledged that the decrease was temporary.
Hagerstown and 12 other airports were given the opportunity to apply for waivers that would keep the federal backing. Senators Cardin and Mikulski and Congressman Delaney wrote to the FAA urging it to accept the waiver request from HGR based on the temporary circumstances and evidence presented.
“In fighting for HGR’s place in the Essential Air Service, we’ve been fighting hard to maintain jobs and an economic anchor for Washington County and the entire western Maryland region,” said Senator Cardin. “Leveraged with other federal investments, Hagerstown and HGR have effectively utilized the EAS program to encourage economic development focused on the tremendous asset of the regional airport and beyond. I am proud of their perseverance and pleased that they will continue to have federal backing for continued economic growth.”
“This is great news for jobs and for the economy of Hagerstown,” Senator Mikulski said. “The Hagerstown Airport keeps Washington County business and leisure travelers on the move. That’s why I called Secretary Foxx, urging him to approve the Essential Air Service waiver for the Hagerstown Airport. I promise to keep fighting for investments in Western Maryland that make our nation safer and our economy stronger.”
“Continued federal support for the Hagerstown Regional Airport is a reminder that smart government policy starts with paying attention to the details and listening to local leaders,” said Congressman John Delaney. “There were very clear extenuating circumstances that needed to be considered by DOT and thankfully they were. The Hagerstown Regional Airport is a key economic asset for Washington County and Western Maryland and I believe passenger air service should be a part of the airport’s profile: more flights equals a larger economic impact and more jobs.”
Currently, Allegiant Air provides twice-weekly flights between Hagerstown and Orlando, Fla., during the winter season. Sun Air operates daily flights between Hagerstown and Dulles. Only the Sun Air flights are subsidized by the EAS program.
The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 allowed airlines to provide air service to domestic markets as they saw fit, but Congress had the foresight to create the EAS Program to ensure a minimal level of scheduled air service in small communities like Hagerstown. Without the support of the EAS Program, smaller communities were much more likely to lose airline service. Hagerstown has successfully leveraged the support from the EAS program to attract additional scheduled air flights and businesses to the region.
Hagerstown Regional Airport is home to 40 defense and aviation firms with more than 700 total employees.