Air Transport World

DOT seeks end to EAS by '86. (Essential Air Service program)

Air service to Montpelier, Vt. and Mt. Vernon, Ill. could come to a sudden stop if a deficit-conscious Reagan administration succeeds in its effort to terminate the Essential Air Service Program (EAS) three years early.

Air Kentucky's Beech 99s would have stopped flying into Mt. Vernon over a year ago had the Civil Aeronautics Board honored the carrier's request for release from its EAS obligation.

Precision Airlines, requires to fly only three daily flights into Montpelier, once flew four. After none of the four segments paid off, CAB redefined the service level to two daily trips, which Precision was able to provide thanks to its EAS subsidy income.

The price of air service to these two communities--$489,455--comes out of the pockets of American taxpayers.

Deficits of the U.S. government have more than doubled in the past four years. For U.S. commuter and regional carriers providing subsidized air service linking small communities to larger ones, the deficit problem moved from the abstract to the concrete Feb. 4. That's the day the Reagan administration asked Congress to turn off the money spigot for three subsidy programs--Amtrak, the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) and EAS. Of an estimated $4.2 billion projected reduction in DOT's budget, about $3.8 billion will come from cutting off funding to these three programs.

Small number

Of the $52 million Congress appropriated to EAS for Fiscal Year 1985, sources expect $44 million to be spent. This is the most spent on EAS since 1981. If millions can be called "small," this is a pretty small number compared to the billions of the UMTA and Amtrak programs.

But for 43 subsidized airlines of various sizes and almost 142 small cities and towns the impact will be anything but small. …

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