Airport delays choice for recommendation

The Altoona-Blair County Airport Authority has temporarily delayed a recommendation on future passenger service at the airport, pending submission of revised proposals to the federal government.

After receiving a request from two carriers interested in revising their submissions, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Analysis decided that the four carriers interested in the Essential Air Service contract could have until Tuesday to make modifications.

The airport’s current EAS contract, with Silver Airways of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is up for renewal as of Aug. 1. Silver applied to continue serving the airport, using a 33-seat Saab aircraft, with flights to and

from the Washington-Dulles airport.

But with declining passenger numbers and Silver’s plans to cut one of three daily flights, the authority has been showing interest in proposals from three carriers who suggest using an eight- or nine-seat aircraft to make multiple daily flights to the Pittsburgh and/or Washington-Dulles airport.

Representatives for those airlines, Sun Air of Fort Lauderdale, Boutique of San Francisco and City Link Air of Jacksonville, Fla., have asked the authority to consider them as viable options.

While the government’s most recent posting did not mention a new deadline for public comment on the forthcoming modified proposals, Altoona-Blair County Airport Manager Tim Hite said Wednesday that he had assurance that a comment period will follow the Tuesday deadline.

The government usually allows 14 days for comment, Hite said.

If that’s the case, then the authority could discuss the options at its June 9 meeting at the airport, authority Chairman Tom Hite said.

The chairman asked the authority members, during a reconvened meeting on Wednesday in Altoona, if they wanted to discuss a recommendation based on the pending proposals, without knowing what changes might be submitted. Authority member Marty Marasco recommended waiting.

“I’ve been presumptious before, and it’s come back to bite me,” Marasco said.

Tim Hite also said that if the federal government fails to name a carrier by Aug. 1 to provide passenger service at the airport, passenger service will still continue. The wording in the EAS contract, Tim Hite said, allows the government to order Silver to keep serving the airport beyond the Aug. 1 renewal date if needed.