Lebanon Airport could lose $2m in program cut



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Lebanon Airport could lose more than $2.2 million if a federal aviation subsidy program is eliminated as part of an air transportation overhaul bill making its way through Congress. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011, legislation meant to reform the Federal Aviation Administration, cutting some $4 billion over four years. That bill calls for a number of program cuts, including sunsetting the Essential Air Service Program, saving $400 million by 2014.The Essential Air Service Program was created as part of the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act to guarantee that small communities that were served by larger air carriers before deregulation would still have a minimal level of scheduled air service. Currently, there are some 105 airports, including Lebanon, on the list that receive funds through the program."The EAS program is critical to the success of the airport and to the Upper Valley region," said Rick Dyment, manager of the airport.The airport - the only other one in the state besides Manchester-Boston Regional Airport that has regularly scheduled service - is served by Cape Air, with four round-trip flights each day to Logan Airport in Boston and two round-trips daily to White Plains, N.Y., with included ground service to Manhattan.Dyment said if the airport loses EAS funding, either Cape Air would find it no longer feasible to maintain service, or it would significantly reduce flights or increase ticket prices."It has been great working with them," said Dyment. "If they have to raise ticket prices so high no one can afford them, it's like not having service at all."To put the $2,245,669 subsidy in perspective, Dyment said that is equivalent to $271 per enplanement, and is slightly less than the average subsidy paid out to rural airports."Forty-three airports receive less, and 60 receive more," he said.Dyment said Lebanon draws New Hampshire and Vermont passengers from as far north as the Canadian border, south to Claremont and Keene, west to Woodstock in Vermont and east to the Lake Sunapee area.A good portion of the airport's business is composed of travelers from New York City, many of whom have second homes in the Upper Valley. Dartmouth College, the region's high-tech businesses and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center are also key drivers of air travel to the area."If we lost service, passengers would have to travel to one of the larger airports, like Manchester and Burlington or Logan, or even Bradley in Connecticut," Dyment said. "That's a long way to drive."The FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 next heads to the full House for consideration. - CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW Edit ModuleShow Tags