WASHINGTON – A transportation funding bill up for a House vote Tuesday did not include $8.2 million to help local airports struggling under post-Sept. 11 restrictions, but lawmakers said they are confident they can still win the money.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, introduced the amendment Thursday to the $89.3 billion Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, and withdrew it the same day after being assured that the issue would be reconsidered when the House and Senate meet to negotiate a final appropriations bill.
His proposal would have split $8.2 million between Reagan National Airport in Northern Virginia and College Park Airport, Hyde Field and Potomac Airfield, all of which are in Prince George’s County.
Hoyer said he has been hearing from the airports since December 2001, when post-9/11 restrictions were lifted for most general aviation airports. But the four airports, all of which are just miles from the White House, still operate under severe restrictions.
“As a result, these airports, specifically College Park Airport, Potomac Airfield, and Washington Executive (Hyde Field) have been forced to nearly cease their operations,” Hoyer said in a prepared statement.
“This is the latest attempt to help alleviate the millions of dollars of consequential damage since 9/11, incurred in meeting security requirements, and the revenue lost because of the interruption in operations at these airports,” Hoyer said in the statement.
Hyde Field in Clinton, for example, was once home to four flight schools and had about 60,000 flight operations — defined as one takeoff and one landing — every year. The airport now has just one operating flight school, and averaged about 6,000 flight operations in the past year.
All of the airports in Hoyer’s amendment closed at some point following the 2001 terrorist attacks. Hyde Field closed twice — from September 2001 to February 2002, and from May to September 2002 — both times because flight restrictions kept planes from flying in and out of the airport.
Hyde manager Stan Fetter says he would welcome the federal aid, but he’s not optimistic.
“If you don’t expect anything, you’re never going to get disappointed,” Fetter said Tuesday.
Potomac Airfield owner David Wartofski said his airport has been most affected by pilots’ assumptions that his airfield is closed because of its proximity to the nation’s capital. But he said that as long as pilots go through the required security screening, they can fly in and out of Potomac without problems from military aircraft that patrol the skies over Washington.
“Frankly pilots who are not cleared do have to worry about Blackhawks and F16s if they screw up,” Wartofski said. “But if you’re cleared, it’s not a problem.”
The transportation bill was still being debated in the House early Tuesday evening.