GI Airport Flying High Despite Possible Tower Closure
By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
The only airport tower spanning a 500 mile stretch from Lincoln to Denver may be forced to close its doors.
"As we know it today, the tower will close," Central Nebraska Regional Airport Director Mike Olson said.
But that could change, if there's government intervention, or legal action.
Olson said, "We're not going to go down without a fight. Clearly there's a lot of fight left."
This has been an airport flying high, with a record 56,000 passengers last year. They don't want to do anything to stop the momentum.
And while Grand Island hopes to someday control its own destiny, they again seek federal subsidies to maintain flights through the Essential Air Service program.
Rep. Adrian Smith said, "Several airports in Nebraska receive funds. Certainly I always encourage Nebraskans to take advantage of local air service. Obviously Grand Island is doing very well, increasing ridership locally as well as regional air service here."
A nearly $2 million bid came from Sovereign Air, which is a start up that local officials say is not qualified.
American Eagle submitted a $1.8 million a year proposal to continue what have been popular flights.
Olson said, "We are all pleased to have great service to Dallas, probably one of the best large hubs in the country."
Those flying from warmer climates have to fumble with their coats, as planes drop them off on the runway.
But the airport plans to build a multi-million dollar terminal expansion with modern conveniences at a smaller scale.
And this week, they will open bids to build a new fixed base terminal too.
Whether or not the tower closes, this airport presses forward one passenger at a time.
Olson said, "If you support service, you will earn more service and that's what we're trying to do here."
American Eagle's proposal calls for 13 round-trip flights on 44 or 50 seat regional jets.
The airport is also served by Allegiant Air, with vacation flights to Las Vegas and Phoenix-Mesa.
The bid opening for the fixed base terminal is tomorrow. The new passenger terminal is still a ways off.