Airport Manager Clarifies What Happened to EAS

Some people have wondered what happened to a federal program that once benefited the Sheridan County Airport. Sheridan Media reporter Pat Blair has an answer.

There was a time, according to some Sheridan County residents, when the county airport held an Essential Air Service designation granted by the federal government. And they've wondered, in the weeks since Great Lakes ended commercial air service here, what happened to that designation, and why the county lost it.

County Airport Manager John Stopka says the fact is that the county never was granted Essential Air Service status. The designation, which was authorized by Congress back in 1978, was granted to airlines that served some of the country's smaller airports. The purpose was to keep airlines from pulling out of those airports. The EAS designation included federal subsidies to the airlines that were losing money in those small markets. But, Stopka said, the airlines had to apply for those subsidies.

Great Lakes didn't apply for any federal funds to subsidize its service in Sheridan. The airport manager said that, when Congress revised the EAS legislation in 2012, a provision was added that, if an airline didn't receive subsidies for an airport in 2010, the Essential Air Service status would no longer apply. That's what happened in Sheridan.

The airport manager added that he believes Congress is trying to end the Essential Air Service designation nationwide. In Wyoming, airlines still have the designation at only three airports – Worland, Laramie and Cody.

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