Things are looking up at Watertown International Airport.
During a Tuesday meeting of the Planning & Development Committee for the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, Grant W. Sussey was introduced as the new airport manager. He is taking over the operations of the airport from County Highway Superintendent James L. Lawrence Jr., who has been the airports steward for the past seven years. Mr. Lawrence was recognized for his years of service as the provisional airport manager with a Certificate of Appreciation, a well-deserved honor.
Mr. Sussey was confirmed by county legislators as manager of the newly created Airport Department in October; he took over the job Nov. 13. He formerly served as director of aviation at Orange County Airport in Montgomery, N.Y.
This wasnt the only good news confirmed at Tuesdays meeting. Jefferson County Legislator Barry M. Ormsby, R-Belleville, said that another flight has been added to the Sunday schedule at Watertown International Airport.
American Airlines, the exclusive commercial carrier at the airport, has offered two round-trip flights each weekday and one round-trip flight on Saturday and Sunday through its subsidiary American Eagle. It has offered this service between Dexter and Chicagos OHare International Airport for nearly two years.
Usage of the airlines services has apparently increased. Mr. Ormsby said that the number of people flying into and out of the airport is on track to increase 18 percent this year compared with last year.
The daily flights rely on a program of the federal government called Essential Air Service. It was implemented after the Airline Deregulation Act was passed in 1978 to ensure that airline carriers continued to serve small U.S. communities.
American Eagle saw a need to add a flight to its Sunday schedule. Airline officials requested $3,636,045 for the next year from the EAS program, a nearly 20 percent increase from the $3,047,972 its now receiving.
But the U.S. Department of Transportation approved $3,356,349 in EAS funding for American Eagle, a boost of 10 percent. It ruled that the extra flight wasnt necessary to comply with its rules. If the airlines wanted to add another flight, it would need to find the money on its own, DOT officials declared.
So thats just what American Eagle did. The new flight at Watertown International Airport will be offered on Sunday evenings.
As this airline service has become vital for so many people in the north country, an additional flight will be a welcome development. Its great to see American Eagle succeeding with these flights, which will continue to boost economic opportunities throughout the region. We wish Mr. Sussey all the best in his goal to keep operations at Watertown International Airport running smoothly.