Area leaders in Washington D.C.

Paducah and McCracken County leaders are once again in Washington D.C. as part of their annual Chamber of Commerce visit. This year, their priorities include pushing for more funding for clean-up of the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and concerns of a pilot shortage affecting flights at Barkley Regional Airport.

Members of Barkley Regional Airport’s Board of Directors plan to meet with Department of Transportation leaders Wednesday morning to discuss the future of funding smaller airports.

Right now, the government subsidizes the flights in and out of Paducah, making the flights possible through a program known as the Essential Air Service. But airline mergers, the reduction in the number of connecting hubs, and fuel costs have raised concerns about how sustainable the program is.

Barkley leaders say there is a nationwide pilot shortage, which has resulted in flight cancellations in Paducah. Increasing the experience and pilot certification requirements is also concerning because they say pilots often have to pay for flight training out of pocket, which could reach into the thousands even before they receive their wings to fly.

On Thursday, our leaders will ask the Department of Energy for nearly $270 million for 2016 to continue the cleanup at the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The contract with Fluor, the company picked to manage the cleanup expires in 2017. Our leaders don’t want to see a lapse in the current deactivation contract because hundred of jobs could be on the line.

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