A story on the federal Essential Air Service program Tuesday said the latest round of funding would restore commercial airline service to airports in Mason City and Fort Dodge. That came as a surprise to the airport managers, since it never stopped. Aviation Director Rhonda Chambers says there is a new agreement with the federal transportation authority to help subsidize commercial service. They now have a two-year contract that will ensure Mesaba continues to provide three flights a day to and from the Fort Dodge airport. Chambers says the airport is pleased to have the security of a two-year agreement because it means so much to a city like Fort Dodge. She says it’s wonderful for the state’s economy and those of local cities, and they have to keep air service, for economic development. She says there’s been air service since the airport was built but the airport also allows businesses to bring in everything from “Casino Express” Boeing 737s to Air Force Two, charter aircraft and many corporate jets, and she says in addition to commercial service, the corporate planes also need access to a city. When business are deciding whether to move to town, she says it’s among their top 10 questios: “Do you have an airport, or commercial air service?” Chambers says it’s hard to describe how important the airport is in giving a town access to the world. She says “a mile of highway will take you a mile, but a mile of runway will take you — anywhere.” The Essential Air Service federal subsidy was created in 2001 to ensure smaller towns manage to keep ticketed airline service.
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