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Letters to the Editor - Aug. 27

August 26, 2011

Carriers face many obstacles at local airport

To the editor:

As a lifelong resident of Washington County and a commercial/corporate pilot with a 40-year history of flying from the Washington County airport, I feel compelled to comment on the recent stories regarding local airline service. Missing from the stories are the root causes of why this area isn't able to sustain viable air service without subsidy from the Essential Air Program:

 The close proximity of both BWI and Dulles airports and the convenience afforded of 15 carriers serving BWI and 30 serving Dulles. Both airports have attracted Southwest Airlines and AirTran, with BWI alone offering over 150 Southwest departures and arrivals daily. These airports have become leaders in attracting low-cost service to destinations throughout the U.S.

 The Washington County area is primarily rural with lower wage structures, resulting in less discretionary income for residents than Frederick/Baltimore/Washington. How much of the local population will fill 130-plus seats to limited destinations week after week, month after month? Many families are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table; not planning their next golf junket to Myrtle Beach. A quote from Ed Warneck of Direct Air says it all: "There were days only one or two people would book the entire destination."

 Airlines and Washington County officials are making the assumption that those with money to spend on travel will jump at the chance to spend their hard-earned vacation time in Myrtle Beach and the Orlando area. Not everyone is interested in golf, the beach or Disney World. By driving to BWI or Dulles, you have an infinitely greater choice of leisure destinations such as the Grand Canyon, California and Las Vegas.

For years, airport and Washington County officials have extolled the "convenience factor" of Washington County's airport. How convenient is it when you are limited to two or three destinations? How much more convenient is it for Frederick-area residents to drive 35 minutes to Hagerstown when they can drive 45 minutes to BWI or Dulles?

While the majority of current county commissioners were not in office at the time the runway extension decision was made, it seems to date the runway extension has been a failed endeavor. I don't believe there is a single aircraft being operated by any government contractor that couldn't have used the original 5,500-foot runway. While I have no doubt that Washington County will again attract airline service, it will be interesting to see the longevity of the next carrier.

Tim Bussard
Hagerstown


Remembrance ride caused inconvenience

To the editor:

It's all well and good to honor the victims of 9/11, but I was on my way to Urgent Care when I got caught up in the traffic mess created by the motorcycles. I just hope that no one with a more life-threatening condition than mine was stalled out there, too. Shutting down the whole of Route 70 for an event like this is absurd.

John Warner
Williamsport

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