WASHINGTON – The Senate has passed legislation sponsored by
U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and
Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-MD) that will reinstate the Essential Air Service (EAS) program at Hagerstown Airport.
The bill extends the EAS program at Hagerstown for one year.
Congress is expected to pass a full five-year reauthorization of the EAS program as part of the larger Federal Aviation Administration bill that will be taken up later in 2008.
The Senate action will allow Hagerstown airport to resume commercial passenger service without having to wait for the larger bill to pass.
The bipartisan bill, which also passed the House earlier this week, extends the existing provisions regarding the EAS subsidies through Sept. 30, 2008.
It would ensure that certain mileage calculations used to determine the EAS program eligibility are certified by states rather than federal regulators.
The extension would affect three airports: Hagerstown, Brookings, S.D., and Lancaster, PA.
“Passage of this legislation is critical to ensuring that the EAS program continues until Congress passes the FAA reauthorization bill,” said Senator Cardin.
“The EAS program is important to the future economic growth of Hagerstown and Western Maryland, and I will continue to work for its inclusion in the FAA reauthorization bill.”
“Senator Cardin and I pledged to do what we could to help the Hagerstown Regional Airport, and this bill provides a much-needed extension to get commercial air service back up and running in Western Maryland,” said Senator Mikulski.
“Our regional airports play a key role in maintaining Maryland’s robust economy. I will continue to fight to keep Marylanders on the go and for a federal investment in our Western Maryland communities.”
On Sept. 30, Hagerstown lost AirMidwest/MESA, but it has an opportunity for another carrier and that will be dependent on getting the EAS mileage waiver.
Twice last year, the Senate approved the Cardin-Mikulski measure for Hagerstown airport only to see the legislation become enmeshed in unrelated disputes over FAA reauthorization.
Today’s action marks the first time that a final bill dealing with the issue will be sent to the President, who is expected to sign it.
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.
Without the EAS Program, smaller communities would be much more likely to lose airline service.