FAA pulls subsidy at McKellar-Sipes airport

Airport director hoping for waiver

May 13, 2014 5:41 PM   |

The longevity of Seaport Airlines at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport depends on whether or not a waiver will be given to the airport for a year. If the waiver is not extended the airport will remain open, but Seaport leaves Jackson. 2012 file photo//The jackson sunThe longevity of Seaport Airlines at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport depends on whether or not a waiver will be given to the airport for a year. If the waiver is not extended the airport will remain open, but Seaport leaves Jackson. 2012 file photo//The jackson sun

The Federal Aviation Administration has pulled the subsidy at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport, leaving the region without Essential Air Service.
Changes made by Congress to the Essential Air Service program that were included in the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, required an average of at least 10 passenger enplanements per day to maintain eligibility for flights subsidized by the Essential Air Service program.
The daily average at McKellar-Sipes stands at 7.8.
“We’re looking internally to see what we can do locally,” Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist said. “We have a number of corporate flights come in and out of the airport every day, but the issue is the flights for the public flying out of Jackson.”
Steve Smith, the executive director at McKellar-Sipes, said he is looking for help from U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Congressman Stephen Fincher.
“We feel like they can intervene and get us a one-year waiver,” Smith said. “If we get one, we’ll work even harder. We’ve had some issues, but there are some we can’t work around.
“There is a shortage of pilots on the regional side, because regional airports are used as a training ground.”
Smith said he did not know the status of airports in Athens, Ga., Bradford, Pa., El Centro, Calif., Fort Dodge, Ia., Franklin/Oil City, Pa., Greenville, Miss., Hagerstown, Md., Lancaster, Pa., Kingman, Ariz., Macon, Ga., Merced, Calif., and Muscle Shoals, Ala., that were on the list with Jackson.
Smith believes he will know within 60 days if an appeal is granted or not.
“That’s my guess,” Smith said. “Seaport’s contract ended in January, but they were given an extension that runs through September.”
If the waiver is not extended, the airport will remain open, but Seaport leaves Jackson.
“They will lose this market,” Smith said. “They can’t fly this route without the supplement.”
Smith said with the right incentives, the required average of 10 passengers could be reached.

“Yes, increasing 2.2 people per day is a lot on an average day, but not a lot,” Smith said. “The (service) is worth too much to our community not to try real hard.”

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