A pilot shortage threatens to decrease funding for Nebraska’s small, rural airports.
Congressman Adrian Smith has introduced legislation that would allow small airports to use air traffic numbers from 2012 so they can qualify for funding under the Airport Improvement Program.
“So my bill would actually insure that those airports which reached the 10,000 enplanements in 2012, before the new regulations, including North Platte, Alliance, and Scottsbluff, could use the enplanement numbers from that year so they could qualify,” according to Smith.
New federal regulations require co-pilots to clock at least 1,500 hours of flight time. That has greatly reduced air traffic at small airports, dropping significantly enough at some to prevent them from qualifying for federal funding.
Federal funding is vital to pay for infrastructure improvements at small airports, such as for runways, taxiways, aprons, navigational aids, even safety and security upgrades.
The legislation introduced by Congressman Smith, called the Small Airport Regulation Relief Act of 2014, would allow small airports to use the traffic numbers from 2012, before the new regulations reduced their air traffic. It would allow airports that reached 10,000 enplanements in 2012 to use those numbers so they could qualify for federal money.
“That does not resolve the pilot shortage and we are working on solutions to that as well, but it is a step, I think, in the right direction,” Smith says.