Pork for airports now at $1 million per daily flight

posted at 4:45 pm on September 18, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

We’ve noted that Congress has spent millions of dollars in subsidies for an airport in Rep. John Murtha’s home district, including $800,000 this year to repave the runway used by a whopping 20 people each day. That’s not the only airport living off of federal subsidies, however, as ABC News reports today. They focus on Greenbrier Valley Airport, which gets two flights a day, and for that will get $2 million from Congress to refurbish their terminal:

The Greenbrier Valley Airport, the gateway to the ritzy Greenbrier resort where rooms start at $500 a night, is about to get more than $2 million in federal stimulus funds to spruce up the terminal building.

Only two commercial flights a day come in and out of the Lewisburg, W.Va., airport and, on average, each plane carries six passengers.

But U.S. tax dollars keep the airport in business. In addition to stimulus funds the airport received, the federal government subsidizes the commercial flights to the tune of $562 per passenger through the FAA’s Essential Air Service program, which supports rural airports through a $175 million annual appropriation.

Indeed, dozens of small, U.S. airports depend on federal funds for their survival, prompting critics to complain that these “airports to nowhere” fly too few passengers to justify the subsidies.

For 12 passengers a day, all GVA needs is a Quonset hut and a desk with a telephone.  Only the federal government would spend $2 million on a building that gets 12 people a day passing through it.  It’s these kind of decisions that make people uneasy about government running, oh, say, the entire health-care system.

Of course, the pork recipients have a different perspective:

“In Washington terms, $175 million is really just a rounding error,” O’Sullivan said. “And to cancel [the funds] would be too widespread pain for too little gain.”

Hey, that’s funny.  Can we say the same thing about CEO pay, too?  How about the normal 3.5% profit margin made by the health insurers?  That looks like “just a rounding error,” especially in Washington terms.

There is no justification possible for spending $2 million on a building that has customers a day.  That’s not a rounding error; it’s boneheaded bureaucracy, and pork-barrel politics.

Greenbrier has a long-time connection to Congress.  The expansive and expensive resort has long been a favorite of the political elite and the powerful.  It also served as a secret Cold War bunker for Congress for decades until the Washington Post exposed it in 1992 and rendered the American investment in it worthless.  The Greenbrier resort announced its bankruptcy in March of this year, and this looks suspiciously like a pot-sweetener for the Marriott chain, which had expressed interest in buying it.

Congress should re-evaluate the entire rural airport subsidy program, or at the very least calculate subsidies based on usage rather than political connections.  These earmarks are nothing more than boondoggles that serve as political payoffs.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

That looks like “just a rounding error,” especially in Washington terms.

You’ve been hanging around too many budget people, Ed ;-)

ernesto on September 18, 2009 at 4:48 PM

I’m guessing we’ll get a post about Mrs. Obozo saying that us women are treated unfairly under the current healthcare system. I, for one, have been rescued by the horrible health system more than once. What a disgrace.

txag92 on September 18, 2009 at 4:55 PM

Hey it’s just newly printed money. Nothing to fret about. I hear that congress is going to send me $80,000 to redo my driveway. Eat your hearts out suckers.

david kumbera on September 18, 2009 at 4:55 PM

all GVA needs is a Quonset hut

Oh yeah, and thanks for that Ed. I never did know how to spell “Quonset” before.

HA is very educational.

Knucklehead on September 18, 2009 at 4:56 PM

lol you could probably replace 5-6 of their 6 passenger planes for that much.

Wait, do they have more than that?

Also, 2 million is probably the smallest denomination of pork.

jhffmn on September 18, 2009 at 4:56 PM

The Federal Government spends $2 million on an airport servicing 12 people per day, or 4,380 per year. That’s an average of $456.62 per passenger. Why not buy the airline ticket while they’re at it? /sarc

Steve Z on September 18, 2009 at 4:57 PM

P.S. Or else you could buy each passenger a ticket on a bus from a busier airport, with money left to spare!

Steve Z on September 18, 2009 at 4:58 PM

I thought Nancy Pelosi was going to get right on top of that ‘culture of corruption’.

GarandFan on September 18, 2009 at 4:58 PM

I thought Nancy Pelosi was going to get right on top of that ‘culture of corruption’.

GarandFan on September 18, 2009 at 4:58 PM

She did..

the_nile on September 18, 2009 at 5:00 PM

And the biased media and whacko pundits think we are protesting because he’s black. How difficult is it to read this type of report and not put two and two together. Nobody likes to get scammed!

sherry on September 18, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Compare this to the Delta Smelt…

… I think the United States Congress needs a ‘Reset’ button.

Seven Percent Solution on September 18, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Wouldn’t this chump change be better directed toward the modernization of air traffic control? I can’t stand Congress.

Cindy Munford on September 18, 2009 at 5:01 PM

There should be jail time for this misuse of funds.

Johan Klaus on September 18, 2009 at 5:11 PM

What, deny heartland rural communities populated by real Americans their air link to the outside world and critical economic development? You East Coast elitist b******s.

Can we get Saracuda’s opinion on this, btw? I’ll settle for a Facebook entry.

“In Alaska, millions of federal dollars are going to tiny airports that make the Greenbrier look as busy as the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

ABC News visited Ouzinkie Airport, on a remote island near Kodiak, Alaska, which just hit the jackpot with $15 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — $100,000 for each of the town’s 150 residents, even though there is another airport 30 minutes away.”

Bleeds Blue on September 18, 2009 at 5:12 PM

There should be jail time for any pol. passing any bill that is not specifically constitutional.

Johan Klaus on September 18, 2009 at 5:15 PM

The recent reports in USA Today and the morning news shows are slanted and leave out important facts.

The reports focus on commercial activity and completely ignore General Aviation – flights by aircraft owned and operated by individuals and small businesses, which comprises thousands of flights per day. GA adds billions of dollars to the economy by making local businesses more effective and efficient. These small airports are also where Life Flight operates from.

The reports also ignore the fact that the average grant to small airports is $742,000, while the average grant to the airline hubs is $6.17 million. They also failed to note that GA operators pay into the same trust fund that aieline passengers do, via a gas tax that is five times what airlines pay. (Note that the airlines pass on the taxes to the passengers. GA operators can’t recoup those costs.) The fund pays for the air traffic control system, and guess who is the primary beneficiary of that? The airlines.

So before letting a media hack job get you worked up, spend a little time getting ALL the facts: http://www.gaservesamerica.com/
http://www.aopa.org/advocacy/articles/2009/090917responsestory.html
http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090917/BUSINESS01/909170364/2047/BUSINESS/Officials+defend+role+of+small+airports
http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20090917/NEWS/909170321/1004/NEWS01&referrer=NEWSFRONTCAROUSEL
http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090917/A_NEWS/909170323#STS=fzrfhwbd.23qe

skydaddy on September 18, 2009 at 5:17 PM

Wild Harry Reid wants 20 billion for a train from L.A. to Vegas.
Murtha is a diseased Democrat. It would be cheaper to charter a plane daily than flush this much down the touilet.

seven on September 18, 2009 at 5:18 PM

PEOPLE OF PENNSYLVANIA:

Do your civic duty and TAKE OUT THIS TRASH IN 2010!

Khun Joe on September 18, 2009 at 5:19 PM

Shut the damn airport down and give ‘em a couple of hot air balloons.

Would you like to fly in my beautiful balloon…

TXUS on September 18, 2009 at 5:20 PM

ABC showing outrage at Pork and Waste? Those Tea Baggers at ABC are just racist. How dare they!!!!

Dennis D on September 18, 2009 at 5:24 PM

ABC News visited Ouzinkie Airport, on a remote island near Kodiak, Alaska, which just hit the jackpot with $15 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 —

I bet this was payback for someone who trashed Sarah Palin. Follow the money. See who the contractor is or who benefits most and you will find one source of Palin smears.

Dennis D on September 18, 2009 at 5:26 PM

Dunno what’s up with the comments; I’ll try again.

The news reports are slanted and inaccurate. Get the facts:

http://www.aopa.org/advocacy/articles/2009/090917responsestory.html

skydaddy on September 18, 2009 at 5:29 PM

What, deny heartland rural communities populated by real Americans their air link to the outside world and critical economic development? You East Coast elitist b******s.

Can we get Saracuda’s opinion on this, btw? I’ll settle for a Facebook entry.

“In Alaska, millions of federal dollars are going to tiny airports that make the Greenbrier look as busy as the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

ABC News visited Ouzinkie Airport, on a remote island near Kodiak, Alaska, which just hit the jackpot with $15 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — $100,000 for each of the town’s 150 residents, even though there is another airport 30 minutes away.”

Bleeds Blue on September 18, 2009 at 5:12 PM

Racist rant. Kodiak is occupied by natives. There are no “roads to other land connections”

Kodiak island is 3,500 square miles and air is about the only reliable access. Medicine medical emergencies etc.

The coast guard has a training station with flights out of kodiak.

seven on September 18, 2009 at 5:34 PM

Ed, you need to take a flight with a general aviation pilot and get the facts. Go out to Flying Cloud or Anoka County and look for someone wearing an AOPA cap. Bring a printout of this post and tell them you understand that you’re missing half the story. I’ll bet they offer you a ride on the spot.

skydaddy on September 18, 2009 at 5:35 PM

From AOPA: In 2007 the FAA distributed $3.34 billion in AIP funds to 2,610 airports.

341 primary airports—airports with more than 100,000 passenger boardings each year—received $2.1 billion in AIP funds. That’s an average of $6.17 million per airport.

48 commercial service airports—airports with between 2,500 and 100,000 passenger boardings—received $93 million, or an average of $1.94 million per airport.

139 GA reliever airports received $214 million, or an average of $1.54 million

982 GA airports received $617 million, or an average of $628,000.

Combined, the 389 airline airports divvied up $2,199,335,046, averaging $5.5 million per airport. The 1,121 GA airports shared $831,717,227, averaging $741,942.

An addition, $310 million was distributed through state block grant programs.

skydaddy on September 18, 2009 at 5:37 PM

PAY ATTENTION TO SKYDADDY!

OK, a lot of the funds going to airport are pork. The little airport in my home town, daily movements probably under 20 and no scheduled service at all, has an ILS because a local resident is rich enough to have pull in the Congress.

Nevertheless — the payouts to General Aviation (=”not bigdaddy scheduled airlines”) airports do not even equal the payins GA pilots make to the “trust” (haaarrk! spit!) fund. The airports that serve the scheduled airlines get the meat, and GA gets the hoof and horns.

Even the Cambria County “John Murtha Memorial (don’t we wish) Airport” gets a lot more than a few flights a day, but they aren’t from the scheduled airlines, they’re crop dusters and aerial photographers and courier services and medical emergencies and desperately needed spare parts and people who just like to fly airplanes — and pay high for the privilege.

Tossing the baby out with the bath water is not “conservative”. You could make the argument that GA should pay for itself and fund its own airports. That’s what the AOPA is trying to get, and if GA can’t get payouts from the money it pays in, cut it out with the tax burdens and insane regulatory provisions that make it so d*d expensive in the first place.

The scheduled airlines would love to have the skies to themselves (with somebody else paying the costs), and because most airports are now, after growth, in or near high-dollar housing the real estate agents of the country probably probably produce a hundred barrels of saliva a day imagining cutting them up for McMansions.

Regards,
Ric

warlocketx on September 18, 2009 at 5:52 PM

Greenbrier is a Robert Byrd project. Hopefully it will die when he leaves the senate.

William Amos on September 18, 2009 at 6:24 PM

Hmm. I live in one of those “rural communities” with an airport, and this post seems a bit off. If the FAA is spending only 157 million for all the small rural airports across the country then that’s a heck of a deal.

Our airport is small. It’s not paved, it’s not got even a quonset hut. But it’s FAA approved, and while we don’t get very many passengers–probably less than 12 a day, if that–I’m sure that the FAA doesn’t spend much on us. But we DO have a fair number of crop dusters, flight schools, etc that use our airport. And I know we pay a nice chunk of local taxes for it too. It’s not a big airport, but FAA certification is important to us.

Vanceone on September 18, 2009 at 6:26 PM

From EAA:

“Aviation fuel taxes paid by general aviation users of the national airspace system have annually exceeded the grants distributed for all airport improvements – but that fund designed exclusively for aviation infrastructure has been perennially raided to ease the FAA’s general budget shortfall.”

datadriver on September 18, 2009 at 6:29 PM

Just a note; The real reason this airport may be recieving these funds is what is under Greenbriar.

http://www.avhub.net/congressionalhideawaygreenbriar.htm

This might be justified under continuance of government rationale (not currently, I know) under Homeland Security provisions. This facility was phased out in I beleive it was the 50′s or 60′s, but would seem altogether servicable enough to me. Lavishly so.

This facility and its attendant air strip may be being kept open as an emergency back up of some sort.

Archimedes on September 18, 2009 at 7:18 PM

What, no $ for Whitman field in Oshkosh?

Jeff from WI on September 18, 2009 at 7:23 PM

Not to defend Murtha but let’s not start bashing General Aviation here. Three million spent at GVA may be the last major expenditures for that airport for the next twenty five years. And as noted before, these outlays are from a fund payed for by GA fuel taxes.
Tell the city of Lewisburg that a Quonset hut is perfectly adequate when they’re trying to sell their city to business and industry. A local airport is usually the first chance a locality has to make a good impression to visitors and industry and while a gas shack and an old wooden hanger with a biplane in it may make a good postcard it usually not the image a town wants to project.

lowandslow on September 18, 2009 at 7:28 PM

Glad some folks came out here in support of General Aviation. The airport that I fly out of probably gets one commercial flight per day operating under part 135. The immense volume of flights there are light commercial flights operating under part 91 – but nobody counts those.

swash_plate on September 18, 2009 at 7:47 PM

There was an act of Congress that dictated the federal government was responsible for 85% of all airport construction. I think it was passed under Nixon.

Congress should re-evaluate the entire rural airport subsidy program

If they ended the rural air subsidy program in a de-regulated airline system, there would be tons of airports that would get zero service. Many communities depend on their airports for supplies and emergency evacuations. It is a necessary and important part of government.

I’d rather my tax dollars go to supporting infrastructure like bridges, roads, trains, and airports that will last and increase the value of life instead of some ponzi scheme entitlement program that doesn’t have an end.

I am very thankful for our brand new parallel runway in Greensboro. They mainly built it because FedEx is going to make a hub here. But it will be the best airport in NC now with 2 parallel 10,000 foot runways. That should bring in more flights and competition to an area that is growing exponentially. The government should provide money for the infrastructure that all Americans use.

ThackerAgency on September 18, 2009 at 8:02 PM

Can we get Saracuda’s opinion on this, btw? I’ll settle for a Facebook entry.

“In Alaska, millions of federal dollars are going to tiny airports that make the Greenbrier look as busy as the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

ABC News visited Ouzinkie Airport, on a remote island near Kodiak, Alaska, which just hit the jackpot with $15 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — $100,000 for each of the town’s 150 residents, even though there is another airport 30 minutes away.”

Bleeds Blue on September 18, 2009 at 5:12 PM

You must have bled out. Sarah Palin wasn’t in a position to vote for the odious stimulus package that few, if any of us here, supported. That pork-laden abomination was brought to you by a Democrat-controlled Congress.

Furthermore, waste is waste, regardless of which State wins the pork sweepstakes. We the People aka Taxpayers are the losers.

HotJavaJack on September 18, 2009 at 8:22 PM

If lawyers had tossed out on the heads a long time ago for suing general aviation manufacturers some of this would be self sustaining.

trollkiller on September 18, 2009 at 10:33 PM

I feel like there’s no real economy anymore. It’s just political fealty for money and nothing more. Pay to play baby.

Mojave Mark on September 20, 2009 at 1:01 PM