Nebraska’s small, rural airports catch a break from Congress.
Congress has reauthorized funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, including a provision sponsored by Congressman Adrian Smith that will prevent rural airports from losing federal funding just because their boarding numbers have gone down.
“We know that the regulations that have been imposed have really hurt the enplanement numbers, the boardings, across the airports of the Third District,” Smith says.
Airports had to have at least 10,000 enplanements in a year to qualify for as much as $1 million in federal aid.
Smith says Nebraska airports, such as Scottsbluff, Kearney, and North Platte, qualified before regulations changed in 2012 and a pilot shortage reduced air traffic at the rural airports. Airports in Chadron, Alliance, McCook have also been affected. So far, it appears Grand Island has been able to stabilize its traffic.
Smith says he hopes to pursue longer term solutions for rural airports.
Sen. Deb Fischer says the federal government needs to be involved in such infrastructure maintenance.
“We have to remember that we don’t want areas in this country, rural areas in this country, to become even more disconnected,” according to Fischer.
Fischer does say all services become vulnerable in light of a mounting federal debt.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]