WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, today questioned President Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Phil Washington, about the importance of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program. During the hearing, Sen. Fischer highlighted the vital role the EAS plays in communities across Nebraska.
Click the image above to watch video of Sen. Fischer’s remarks
Following is a transcript of Senator Fischer’s questioning:
Sen. Fischer: On March 10, 2022, SkyWest filed a 90-day notice of its intent to terminate service at 29 Essential Air Service communities. At the time, Nebraska had three communities that were served by SkyWest: Kearney, North Platte, and Scottsbluff. Essential Air Service is critical for our rural communities. So how will you ensure that EAS communities will be served when regional carriers struggle to find those pilots, if you are confirmed?
Washington: Thank you for the question, Senator. That would be one of my top priorities. I would look to work with you and your office on that. I think the FAA has done some work around EAS and the grants that are subsidized in that area. And I would continue that work.
Sen. Fischer: Will FAA commit to continuing issuing the 'hold-in' orders to ensure that carriers meet their contractual obligations in providing service to rural communities?
Washington: Yes, Senator.
Sen. Fischer: SkyWest has applied for a Part 135 charter to help better serve these EAS communities. But there's a backlog at FAA. Do you know what the average time is for FAA to process new Part 135 applications? And what would you do as administrator to address that?
Washington: Thank you for the question, Senator. One of the things that I want to look at is all of the timelines to process things like that, rulemaking, all across the board. I think that we can improve upon that. I think that, in terms of rulemaking, it takes far too long, even internally from what I've seen. And so, I will make that a priority to move those things along.
Sen. Fischer: Yeah, you know, these applications that I referenced here, they're really vital to be able to get those out so that not just the carrier knows what's going on, but these small, rural communities where Essential Air Service is exactly that. It's essential air service. And, as I said, we have many of those across the state of Nebraska, and to be able to serve not just people in the communities but commerce to keep rural America vital and strong. This has to be a priority. It has to be addressed.
Washington: Yes. And I agree with that.