Officials laud FAA bill

Officials laud FAA bill

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

WASHINGTON — The passage of a bill preserving Essential Air Service in Southwest Nebraska is being hailed as good news for the area’s future.

“This is good news for McCook and Southwest Nebraska,” McCook Mayor Dennis Berry said today.
” Commercial air service to our area will help in retaining jobs and enhancing economic development in addition to meeting needs of recreational users.”

The U.S. Senate passed the final House-Senate FAA conference report 75-20 on Monday, including a provision that keeps the most remote small airports in the EAS program, including McCook.

“Continuance of Essential Air Service is indeed good news for McCook; we appreciate Sen. Nelson’s continued support in that,” said Rex Nelson, executive director of the McCook Economic Development Corp.
“EAS represents a critical piece of the infrastructure that small towns rely on to stay connected to the global economy,” said Nelson, who is not related to Sen. Ben Nelson, a major proponent of the program.

“This bill is a win for airports in Nebraska and across our country because it will help ensure that we have an effective, efficient and safe transportation network and will help put people to work on important infrastructure projects,” Sen. Ben Nelson said. “An effective transportation network is critical to our national security, economic development and job growth,” he said.
“We are extremely relieved to receive this news and appreciate Sen. Nelson’s continued efforts to preserve this economic development tool,” said Pam Harsh, executive director of the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce. “EAS is crucial to the economic growth of smaller communities like McCook. In addition, we must have airline service to be competitive in recruiting professionals to businesses in this area as well as for a multitude of other reasons.”

The final conference report states that airports serving an average of 10 or fewer passengers per day will no longer receive EAS support unless those airports are more than 175 driving miles from the nearest large- or medium-sized airports, which include Alliance and Chadron as well as McCook.
It also includes wording that allows state input on the route used to determine driving distance to the nearest large airport.
The bill opens Scottsbluff, North Platte and Kearney airports to using Airport Improvement Funding for projects enhancing safety, capacity, security and environmental issues.

It also includes provisions requiring the federal Transportation Security Administration to begin using automatic targeting recognition by June 1, 2012. The technology produces generic pictures, but the move can be delayed by the TSA if it determines that the automatic targeting is not as effective as advance imaging technology, or additional testing of software is necessary, Sen. Nelson said.

© Copyright 2012, McCook Daily Gazette

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