Local leaders, in Washington, push for airport funding
Local leaders are in Washington DC pushing for sustainable funding to keep Barkley Regional Airport viable.
This month is reportedly going to be the best September ever for airlines at Barkley. Because of that success, airport board members say having the money to continue offering flights at Barkley is important for our entire area.
The airport injects more than $42 million into our economy, but there could be some serious issues down the road that could impact its financial future.
There were several discussed Wednesday, from a possible pilot shortage to improvement grants.
And the vice chairman of the Barkley Regional Airport Authority says they both need to be addressed because they are economically important to keeping small airports open.
With more than 40,000 passengers using Barkley Regional Airport last year, the state’s fourth busiest airport is setting records.
Airport Authority Vice Chairman Jay Page says it’s worth celebrating.
"Things are going well right now," Page said. "We want to continue that trend."
To keep from having any future financial turbulence, Page met with the FAA to discuss some issues that could affect the aviation industry, including pilot retirement.
"You’re going to have a large segment of pilots in the US, commercial pilots retiring at the same time," Page said.
To help offset those retirements, Page says there should be incentives to those who choose it as a career.
"A lot of times, it’s more expensive being a doctor or lawyer," Page said. "And the starting salaries are just not the same."
Another issue: phasing out 50 seat planes.
SkyWest, the regional airline that flies into Barkley uses those planes. Page says it’s not an immediate concern, but it may force Barkley or SkyWest to find a solution in the future.
"Airlines are moving to larger, 60-70 seat aircraft. That could possibly cause some issues," he said.
Page also wants the FAA to commit to significant funding improvements for smaller airports.
Over the years, Page says Barkley utilized about $35 million in grants for renovations and expansions.
Having a larger piece of the pie could be more attractive, he says, for travelers, "which enables us to do such things as runway resurfacing, runway extensions, taxiway maintenance."
Page says none of these issues are immediate but wanted to talk to the FAA should some of these things begin to happen in a few years. He says ridership continues to grow, and flight cancellations have been reduced by 35 percent compared to last year.