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Airport narrowly misses boarding requirement
January 06, 2011 Jerry Purvis   
Western Nebraska Regional Airport ended 2010 about 200 boardings short of the 10,000 figure required to receive its annual $1 million from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Airports that fall short of the number receive $150,000 for that year.

Airport manager Darwin Skelton said they also didn’t make their numbers in 2009, which will have an impact on 2011 federal funding. The boarding shortage for 2010 will affect the airport’s funding for 2012.

“We had carryover of about $400,000 in 2009,” Skelton said. “With the $150,000 we get, we’ll have enough to do the project we planned for 2011.” That project is a new airport improvement plan and a master plan.

The regional airport has already asked the FAA for a moratorium for those two years, which would give them a reprieve. It would also allow time for Congress to pass the FAA reauthorization bill passed.

“If the reauthorization passes, it would give us the $1 million for 2010, even though we didn’t make the required number of boardings,” Skelton said. “That would allow us to do our 2012 project to purchase a new snowplow. We can’t cover that with $150,000.”

Skelton said they’ve talked with the FAA about implementing a grade system for determining required boardings for airports, but there has been little interest. “We’d like to see them do a step system so it isn’t $1 million or $150,000, depending on whether we hit 10,000 boardings.”

Congress has been dealing with the current FAA reauthorization bill since 2007 and the bill is on its 17th extension.

Skelton said other than the boarding shortage, the airport has had a productive year. “I’m hoping the economy will come back around in 2011 and we get some more people flying. Then maybe we won’t be talking about the same problem a year from now.”

He added that because the shortage was small, the airport plans to try some new ideas to help increase the boarding numbers.

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