House amendment could impact local airport

By Colleen Donovan - bio | email

JONES COUNTY, MS. (WDAM) - In Washington DC, Congress is currently debating funding issues and an amendment to one piece of legislation concerning the FAA Reauthorization Bill could have a significant impact on the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport.

The House amendment concerns the Essential Air Service program. That initiative was launched in 1978 to provide subsidies to airlines so they can service airports like the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport. The airport's Executive Director, Tom Heanue, said the subsidy is 1.3 million dollars annually and it is reevaluated every two years.

The House proposal seeks to reduce Essential Air Service funding over the next three years, at which time it'll be eliminated in 2013. Heanue said the subsidy allows the airport to feature two commercial flights a day that both arrive in the Pine Belt and depart to Memphis.

"But there are a lot of small communities that if they didn't have the Essential Air Service then their commerce would not be as well as it is, because they would not have air service to get their business out and conduct it around the country and the world," said Heanue.

Heanue said he is busy contacting Mississippi's Congressmen about Essential Air Service funding and he hopes to learn their views on the issue shortly. An amendment to eliminate the subsidy in the Senate was defeated.

Copyright 2011 WDAM. All rights reserved.