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Fischer Leads Bipartisan Letter on Rural Air Service Program

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, today led a bipartisan group of senators in a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao highlighting their concerns about the administration’s proposed cuts to the Essential Air Service program.

The EAS program incentivizes air carriers to provide service to rural areas and is critical to ensuring air service continues for rural Nebraska. Nebraska’s small and community airports in Alliance, Chadron, Grand Island, McCook, North Platte, Kearney, and Scottsbluff rely on this program.

The letter follows Senator Fischer’s questions to Secretary Chao about EAS at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing earlier this month. It asks Chao to work with the committee on issues and challenges pertinent to rural aviation, and to keep them informed relative to any changes regarding the EAS program.

In the letter sent today, the senators also encourage Secretary Chao to continue working with Congress to ensure continued support for aviation services in our nation’s rural communities.

Full text of letter below:

Dear Secretary Chao:

Thank you for your recent testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation regarding the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.  We were pleased that you acknowledged the importance of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program in rural communities and stated that you are “working with the Administration to address” our concerns.

As you know, EAS provides critical support for rural communities across America, keeping our communities connected to friends, family, and the regional and global marketplace.  Without this support, many rural areas may no longer have access to air services. 

The Administration proposed in its fiscal year 2018 budget request to eliminate the congressional appropriations for EAS, leaving only the mandatory funding from overflight fees.  This would significantly reduce support for rural communities in our states.  A reduction in support could lead to a reduction in services and ultimately in jobs for rural America.  As we move forward with the budget and FAA Reauthorization, we ask that you work with us on issues and challenges pertinent to rural aviation, and keep us informed relative to any changes regarding the EAS program. 

Thank you for your continued attention to this matter.  We look forward to working with you to ensure rural Americans have access to air services. 

Sincerely,

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