Rural runways

By By Trent Lott / U.S. Senator
July 26, 2004
When I became chairman of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee, someone asked me why I would chair a committee which regulates a slumping industry, still slowly recovering from 9/11's impact.
My answer was that the slump is exactly why I'm interested. I want to help the aviation world bounce back and become better, especially for rural states like ours.
Now I'm pleased to bring a little piece of the Aviation Subcommittee to Mississippi, where quality air service and better airports are needed most. This week the Senate's Aviation Subcommittee is conducting a field hearing in Gulfport.
Perhaps our state's future is more closely tied to aviation than many states because we're kind of a scattered, largely rural area trying to attract more industry, and that requires an unquestioned commitment to roads, rails and runways. Mississippi's economic health depends on the ability of people and goods to move rapidly from point to point. When I meet with corporations considering expanding in our state they inevitably ask: Where is the nearest interstate? What kind of railroads are available, and is there a local airport?
Don't forget airports
I've been focusing on this roads, rails and runways transportation triad for several years. Mississippi has made significant progress on all three, but airport improvements sometimes remain the least appreciated.
Most Mississippians don't use an airport everyday. We use roads all the time. We stop for trains, but we often forget that airports aren't just about big cathedral-style terminals and daily departures for Zurich or Tokyo. Small rural airports on the edge of countless towns are especially important to small communities trying to attract investment.
The first session of the 108th Congress proved to be critical for America's aviation, especially Mississippi's small airports.
For instance, the committee authorized more money for the Airport Improvement Program, which has touched virtually every airport in our state. AIP funds have traditionally been for improvements like building new runways, terminals, installing lighting and instrument landings systems.
However, the increased security mandated after 9/11 forced many smaller airports to use AIP funds for expansive security upgrades, to the detriment of physical improvements. The FAA reauthorization established a $500 million fund dedicated specifically to security like baggage screening, reconfiguration of passenger check points and other projects to enhance security. This frees airports to once again use AIP funds for their original purpose physical upgrades of facilities and equipment.
Help for airports
The committee was also able to help airports by decreasing the local AIP match which communities receiving AIP funds have to pay, dropping from 10 percent to 5 percent. We also passed the Small Community Air Service Development Pilot Program by which the U.S. Department of Transportation awards grants to 40 communities each year that demonstrate air service deficiencies or higher than average airfares.
These grants aren't guided by form applications but instead are rather open-ended allowing airports to be innovative with their proposals. For example, at the Meridian airport, officials applied for and received funds to market their airport and purchase equipment that otherwise would have to be provided by the airline.
The result: Delta Airlines resumed jet service to Meridian, the first jet service there since airline deregulation began in the early 1980s. Tupelo is another Mississippi community using this program to help increase air service in Northeast Mississippi.
In the transportation triad consisting of roads, rails and runways, we simply cannot forget the airport component. We may not use airports every day, but we sure depend on them daily for goods and services, and for attracting jobs. They are indispensable to a vast country like America, and especially in rural states like Mississippi.
Write to Sen. Lott at 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.

News

Roxy holds annual W.C. Handy’s Evening at the Roxy Great Pretenders Show

Franklin County

Distinguished Young Women deadline approaches

College Sports

NWSCC adds volleyball to growing Patriot athletics program

News

Russellville Parks and Rec adult softball league grows interest

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight – Thomas Randall Miller

Franklin County

Community Spirit Bank announces promotion

Franklin County

Police search underway for man wanted in three states

Franklin County

Local students earn collegiate honors

East Franklin

PHOTOS: East Franklin Junior High awards honors

News

Traveling band makes stop at Phil Campbell High School

News

Russellville Parks and Rec holds adult sandlot softball game

Galleries

PHOTOS: Community celebrates Fourth of July with annual Jam on Sloss Lake

News

Second Canadian Phil greeted by town

Franklin County

Franklin County Schools lead nurse school nurse named administrator of the year

News

Former Russellville resident performs in ‘Miracle Worker’

Galleries

PHOTOS: Russellville, Red Bay public libraries enjoy summer reading program events

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight: Robbie Richardson

News

University of Mississippi announces spring Chancellor’s Honor Roll

News

PHOTOS: Community turns out for Phil Campbell Festival

Franklin County

University of Alabama announces spring graduates

Franklin County

Dean’s, president’s lists students named for UA spring term

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight – Hugh Plott

Galleries

PHOTOS: Inaugural downtown Russellville Art Crawl winners

Galleries

PHOTOS: Russellville Public Library holds princess, pirates bounce party

x