Taylor says airports need a lift

February 08, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. on Tuesday tried to persuade fellow legislators that regional airports, including Hagerstown, should get a state subsidy to revive commuter air service.

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"Think of a commuter airplane as a flying bus," Taylor, D-Allegany/Garrett, told the House Appropriations Committee.

The subsidy would put Maryland on the cutting edge of mass transportation and economic development, he said.

It would help outlying areas attract upscale tourism and business conferences as well as boost economic development, he said.

The effort to subsidize regional air service came from regional airports in Hagerstown, Cumberland and St. Mary's County, said Maryland Aviation Administration officials.

But no one testified from the regional airports.

Hagerstown Regional Airport Manager Carolyn Motz said she would have testified, but didn't know it was taking place.

Motz said the subsidy would help her efforts to restore service to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, which was lost in December 1997.


Motz could have helped answer committee members' questions about why Hagerstown lost its commuter service to Baltimore-Washington International in December 1997.

USAirways also shifted its hub from Maryland to Pennsylvania, Aviation Administration officials said.

Motz said it was also partly due to a reliability problem with Mesa Airlines, which had conducted the flights for USAirways Express.

In addition to reasonable prices, the service needs to have a good schedule and be reliable, she said.

"If you don't have those three things, all the money in the world won't make it successful," she said.

If the service were restored, the airport would expect to see 1,500 passengers a month flying in from BWI and 1,500 a month going out.

The airport has also been talking with Atlantic Coast Airlines about adding commuter flights to and from Dulles International Airport in addition to BWI.

"We never give up. We're always chipping away," Motz said.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Howard "Pete" Rawlings, despite being a co-sponsor of Taylor's bill, asked some tough questions.

Rawlings, D-Baltimore City, asked why there would be a need for commuter service for both Hagerstown and Cumberland, both in Western Maryland.

Those are the airports most likely to have the market for such a service, the Aviation Administration said.

The subsidy would cost an estimated $2.1 million a year based on three daily flights on weekdays and two daily flights on the weekends.

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