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Round-trip flight helps salute new service to BWI

January 09, 2002

Round-trip flight helps salute new service to BWI



By ANDREW SCHOTZ
andrews@herald-mail.com


There was hoopla in the sky over Maryland Tuesday when a twin-turbo propeller plane flew from Hagerstown to Baltimore in 31 minutes and back to Hagerstown in 21.

The flights were two in a series of trips trumpeting the return of regional air service.

Buoyed by $2.25 million in state money, Boston-Maine Airways is operating the Pan Am Clipper Connection between Cumberland, Hagerstown and Baltimore.

Nineteen-passenger Jetstream 31 planes will take off from Hagerstown Regional Airport for Baltimore-Washington International Airport three times a day on weekdays and twice on weekends. There will be an equal number of return flights.

There will be the same number of flights from Hagerstown to Cumberland Regional Airport and between Cumberland and Baltimore.

Planeloads of government officials and media flew to all three cities Tuesday for pre-planned celebrations.

"This gives our state ... and West Virginia and Pennsylvania ... a direct link to BWI," Del. Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, said in Baltimore.

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"We're looking forward to even greater economic growth because of this," U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., said in Hagerstown.

Gov. Parris Glendening and the state Board of Public Works agreed in June to give Boston-Maine Airways $2.25 million from the state's general fund. The funding will stop June 30.

Taylor and others see the next round of funding - $2 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1 - as a sure thing.

Once the funding runs out, the air routes should be successful enough to sustain themselves, Taylor said.

Boston-Maine Airways President David Fink said he's philosophically opposed to subsidies but felt he had no choice in this case. "There was no other way possible," he said. "I don't look at it as a subsidy. I look at it as meeting my start-up costs."

Asked what would happen if the General Assembly didn't approve funding for the next fiscal year, Carolyn Motz, manager of the Hagerstown Regional Airport, said, "I'm not going to think that way. I don't even have a plan B."

Boston-Maine expected to start its service as early as September 2001, but experienced delays. The first flight took off Dec. 28, beating an end-of-the-year deadline in its contract with the state.

Several people Tuesday credited U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., with speeding up approval by the Federal Aviation Administration.

At first, the round-trip price between Hagerstown and Baltimore were expected to cost at least $100. But by the time service began, the introductory price was $59.

USAirways stopped flying from Hagerstown to Baltimore four years ago because it no longer had a hub there.

Allegany County's three commissioners and local media there kicked off the revelry Tuesday with a 6:30 a.m. flight from Cumberland to Hagerstown.

In Hagerstown, Mayor William M. Breichner, Washington County Board of Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and other members of the media boarded before the plane flew on to Baltimore.

Staff Writer Laura Ernde contributed to this story

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