U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that the recently passed five-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill, which was signed into law on Friday, October 5, includes funding authorizations for both the FAA’s Essential Air Service (EAS) program and the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). Specifically, the EAS program was authorized at an average of $163 million, and the AIP was authorized for $3.35 billion each fiscal year. The senators explained the EAS program supports commercial air service at small airports by ensuring they have regularly scheduled commercial flights to large or medium-hub airports, linking passengers to the National Air Transportation System. Additionally, the senators said the AIP provides funding to public agencies to upgrade and improve public-use airports.
“Ensuring that all Upstate airports have the resources they need to thrive is crucial to safe travel for residents and visitors and attracting business, which is why I fought so hard to preserve the Essential Air Service and Airport Improvement Programs in the FAA Reauthorization bill,” said Senator Schumer. “These two critical programs provide grant funding to make necessary infrastructure upgrades and to support commercial air service at regional airports serving small communities. I was proud to fight for authorizations for these programs, and will fight to keep them fully funded through the appropriations process.”
“The Essential Air Service Improvement Program and the Airport Improvement Program support airports throughout Upstate New York, and I’m very pleased that the recently passed FAA Reauthorization bill has included funding for these important programs,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Our local airports are vital to our upstate communities. They support the local economy and connect businesses and travelers to the rest of the country. These funds will help modernize our local airports, enhance the travel experience for people coming to and from New York, and improve overall public safety. I will always fight in the Senate for programs that support New York’s transportation infrastructure.”
In 1978, Congress passed the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) despite concerns raised at that time regarding the effect it would have on air service to small communities. The EAS program was established to guarantee that communities served by air carriers prior to deregulation would continue to have commercial air service, preventing the loss of a vital mode of transportation that would result in economic harm to rural communities. Access to adequate air service has become imperative to the success of our local economies. However, rural communities have struggled to retain or attract commercial airline service. In New York State, five airports currently depend on this critical program: Massena International Airport, Ogdensburg International Airport, Plattsburgh International Airport, Adirondack Regional Airport, and Watertown International Airport. Chautauqua County Jamestown Airport has applied to also regain EAS status.
The AIP provides grants to public agencies for the planning and development of public-use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). Funds obligated for the AIP are drawn from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which is supported by user fees, fuel taxes, and other similar revenue sources.