At the Raleigh County Memorial Airport on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.), the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, announced new air service provided by "Via Air" between Beckley and Charlotte. Rahall also announced that Via Air is planning to locate an aviation maintenance facility at the airport, which will create up to 50 jobs.
"Today's announcement almost didn't happen. Because if some in the Congress had their way, the Essential Air Service program would have flown out the window two years ago," said Rahall. "As the Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I was proud to champion essential air service in the halls of Congress in 2012. And I will be just as energetic and well positioned next year to defend this program as it is set to expire next September 30th."
Under the Essential Air Service (EAS) agreement, the U.S. Department of Transportation will provide EAS grants for regularly scheduled flights between Raleigh County Memorial Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
"Enhancing our connections to Charlotte Douglas International Airport with regular flights keeps our region connected in very short order to the world," said Rahall at the event today announcing the new service. "I congratulate everyone here on the local level who has been working so closely with me, and I thank the DOT for putting this new partnership together."
The EAS program has continually been under threat in Congress. Everything from axing the program completely, to dramatically reducing subsidies, to trimming the list of eligible airports has been on the table during previous budget negotiations. Rahall led the fight to preserve the program when Republicans proposed ending it in the last bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.
"This new service and new facility are essential to the economy of this community and the entire region," said Rahall. "Combined, these advancements will help diversify our economy, promote economic activity, and, most importantly, create jobs."