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Cardin bill would extend service at airport

August 02, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said Thursday he is "committed to ensuring" that commercial air service continues at Hagerstown Regional Airport, which stands to lose its only passenger airline carrier when a federal subsidy expires at the end of September.

Cardin, D-Md., introduced a proposal Thursday with Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski,D-Md., that would force the airport's commercial carrier, Air Midwest, to continue flights to the airport through the end of the year or until another airline can be found to replace it.

"The airport is an essential transportation hub in Western Maryland," Cardin said. "Residents and businesses there must have scheduled air service."

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The proposal was introduced as part of an earlier bill that would extend for five years the Essential Air Service program that provides a federal subsidy to airlines serving airports in small communities.

Tom Bacon of Mesa Air Group, which owns Air Midwest, said he would not comment on Cardin's proposal Thursday because he had not seen it. Bacon said in an interview last month that it would not be profitable for Air Midwest to fly to Hagerstown without the federal subsidy.

Air Midwest has received the $650,000 annual subsidy to provide service to Hagerstown Regional Airport for the past two years.

Hagerstown Airport Business Development Manager Greg Larsen also said he would not comment on the bill until Tuesday, when Cardin is scheduled to hold a press conference at the airport.

The airport, which was founded in 1927, has not been without a commercial airline since it began passenger service with Piedmont Airlines in 1931, Larsen said. However, it has had three different carriers in five years.

Chautauqua Airlines suspended service at the airport in May 2002 after the company switched its fleet from small commuter planes to larger regional jets.

Chautauqua's sister company, Shuttle America, took over service at the airport until May 2004, when the company stopped flying for US Airways.

The airport's $61 million runway extension, expected to be completed by December, would not be affected by a break in commercial service, Airport Manager Carolyn Motz said last month.

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