Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  The U.S. Senate last night passed Senator John Thune's bipartisan legislation (S.2260) that seeks to restore commercial air service to Brookings and two other airports that were impacted by the September 30, 2007 expiration of a provision in the 2003 Federal Aviation bill. The bill is also sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Tim Johnson (D-SD).

"I am encouraged by the Senate's action to move this important legislation. Essential Air Service is just that, essential. It is essential to the people it serves and it is essential that the House of Representatives pass this legislation without modification so that we can restore commercial air service for Brookings," said Thune. "Ensuring access to communities like Brookings strengthens the local economy, provides consumers with choices, and makes the entire commercial airline network more valuable."

While the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which Senator Thune serves on, approved a comprehensive the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill to improve and modernize our nation's aviation system, including Senator Thune's legislation to maintain Essential Air Service (EAS) service in Brookings through 2012, the Senate has yet to schedule debate on this bill. In light of this delay, Great Lakes Aviation was forced to discontinue its air service to Brookings on October 1st. Senator Thune's bipartisan legislation would return air service to Brookings for one year while the FAA Reauthorization is finalized by Congress. This legislation is also needed because it would reestablish air service to Aberdeen, which Great Lakes Aviation was forced to discontinue in November as a result of Brookings loosing EAS eligibility.

An identical bill (S. 2265) passed the Senate on October 30, 2007, but became bogged down when the House of Representatives added provisions that prevented the bill from being signed into law. The Senate-passed bill will now be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2003, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) determined that EAS subsidies to communities where the current subsidy was over $200 per passenger and within 210 miles of a large hub airport would be discontinued. Brookings was one of the airports impacted by this decision due to its payment rates and its proximity to the Minneapolis airport. Congress passed the FAA bill shortly thereafter which directed the Secretary of Transportation to consult with governors affected by EAS changes to determine if the route used by the DOT was the "most commonly used" route. Governor Rounds determined that the most commonly used route was over 210 miles from Brookings which left the subsidy and air service intact for Brookings until the expiration of the FAA bill in September.