Schumer visits county, pushes for airport funding

JAMESTOWN – The Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown is receiving a push for funding from Sen. Charles Schumer.

Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke at the airport Friday to call on the federal Department of Transportation to grant the airport a one-year waiver to maintain its $1.9 million in funding from the Essential Air Service program.

Vince Horrigan, county executive; Sam Arcadipane, Chautauqua County airport and parks manager; George Spanos, director of public facilities; and Mayor Sam Teresi were in support of the senator’s push.

“We’re here to talk a little common sense,” Schumer said, using an example of being in school and pleading with a teacher to raise a grade of 89.5 up to an A. “We deserve it.”

“Economic development is critical to Chautauqua County and the availability of low-cost flights from our airport is something we are constantly using to help attract new businesses to the region,” Horrigan said. “Losing the Essential Air Service funding now would be a critical blow to our efforts to grow our regional economy and so I am proud to join Sen. Schumer in pushing to help get this funding extended.”

Schumer also mentioned that the airport expects a greater demand for cheaper flights to Cleveland and that local attractions, including wine tours and the Chautauqua Institution, rely on airport traffic. According to Schumer, Cummins Engine is a big supporter of the low-cost air service out of Jamestown.

“Cummins Engine has always been a big supporter of low-cost, reliable air service out of the Chautauqua County Airport, and a viable Chautauqua County Airport facility,” said Mike Abbate, plant manager of Cummins Jamestown Engine plant. “Air service is an important asset to any local business, including ours, and we thank Sen. Schumer for his strong support on this issue.”

The program requires airports to service a minimum average of 10 passengers per day to continue enrollment and receive funding. Last year, the Jamestown airport serviced an average of 9.96, 38 passengers short of meeting the requirement.

Reportedly, 52 flights were canceled due to inclement weather conditions and equipment failure – lack of interest was not the cause of coming up short of the requirement.

The airport has been making technical upgrades to its weather station, which caused the cancellation of multiple flights.

Schumer noted that the airport’s average passenger figure last year was merely a “temporary decline.”

According to Schumer, the airport is working with Silver Airlines and local attractions to increase passenger numbers through collaborative ventures. He noted that within the last three months, passenger figures are up 17 percent from their 2012 totals.

“The irony is that Jamestown airport is poised to grow, and can easily meet this threshold next year, but all of that is in jeopardy if the DOT fails to grant this waiver,” Schumer said. “In such a small community, a growing airport is like a diamond in the rough; it creates economic growth and offers local residents a travel option otherwise unavailable to them.”

Teresi concluded the event by noting how much it meant to him when Schumer called him the night of his election in November of 1999 – the first call he received as the newly elected mayor.

“I want to thank Sen. Schumer for pushing for this waiver to enable the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport to maintain its Essential Air Service status,” Teresi said. “Through the efforts of county government and, in particular, under the guidance of airport manager Sam Arcadipane, there have been significant strides made that will no doubt increase passenger utilization in and out of this airport during the coming months. Commercial airline passenger service is an important and indispensable component of our economic development strategy for the greater Jamestown area.

“He is one of the great public servants out there.”