Senators’ Amendment Extends Waiver Until 2013
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-MD) today applauded the inclusion of their amendment to extend the Essential Air Service (EAS) program at Hagerstown Airport through Sept. 30, 2013 in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act. The Senate-passed version of the FAA reauthorization returns to the House of Representatives to work out differences between two versions of the bill.
The EAS waiver had been extended until Sept. 30, 2010 in previous legislation. The previous extensions of the waiver, which were championed by both Senators Cardin and Mikulski, made it possible for the Hagerstown Regional Airport to reach an agreement with Cape Air in 2009 to provide service between Hagerstown Airport and BWI-Thurgood Marshall International Airport. The EAS waiver provides Cape Air with a $1.2 million annual subsidy to provide service between Hagerstown-BWI.
“The extension of the EAS waiver until September 2013 is extremely important for the entire Western Maryland region because it is critical to ensuring continued commercial air service for Hagerstown Airport,” said Senator Cardin. “The EAS program makes it possible for smaller communities and regions to maintain air service, which is so vital to future development and growth.”
“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 keep commercial air service back running in Western Maryland,” Senator Mikulski said. “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.”
The EAS waiver allows states rather than the federal government to certify certain mileage calculations that are used to determine the EAS program eligibility. The EAS waiver affects three airports: Hagerstown, Brookings, S.D., and Lancaster, PA. 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, it would be much harder for smaller communities to attract a commercial carrier.
The next step in the legislative process will be to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.