Senators seek to save airport from Trump’s skinny budget

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) urged the Trump administration to provide more investment in the rural air service that supports essential travel like the commercial flights in and out of Pendleton’s Eastern Oregon Regional Airport.

The two sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta and Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao expressing concerns in the so-called “skinny budget” from Pres. Donald Trump.

“The Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton is an example of an economic engine that is efficiently using federal programs to improve and expand operations,” the letter states. “This is a rural community, still working to recover from the recession, and the need for infrastructure is only growing.”

Wyden and Merkley added that losing the only commercial air service in Eastern Oregon would put many communities at an economic disadvantage for attracting and retaining businesses. They also write that the termination would also create health concerns for rural seniors who could not easily travel for specialty health care.

In the same level, the lawmakers also stressed the importance of the federal government’s investment in the contract tower program, that provides what they see as crucial support for the Unmanned Aircraft System’s Pan-Pacific test range in Pendleton.

“The contract tower program has averaged around 10,000 operations per year in Pendleton, but is forecast to see around 50,000 operations because of increased traffic due to UAS operations,’ the senators wrote. “UAS vehicles have significant future applications – agriculture, business, package delivery, and search and rescue – and Pendleton offers a safe site to research and test both UAS vehicle innovations as well as integration into the airspace.”