Last month, the federal government awarded the SCASDP grants (PDF) that I had written about in July. It appears that this might be the beginning of the end for the SCASD program, and that's a sad thing. This program at least encourage creative thinking and expected results.
I thought it would be good to go back to the five applications I wrote about to see how they did. The results? Not very pretty.
Elko The proposal: Fund another flight from Elko to Reno My take: "This is one I would be surprised to see succeed. There are better ways they could put that money to use." The result: Denied
Escanaba The proposal: Subsidize marketing costs for the new Essential Air Service carrier's route My take: "This is the kind of proposal that makes sense to me." The result: Denied
Dubuque The proposal: Fund an airport frequent flier program My take: "I give these guys credit for trying something different, and the SCASDP should supports efforts like this." The result: Denied
Midland/Odessa The proposal: Subsidize flights from Midland to the West My take: "If there was demand for more service from a city like this, then the airlines would fly it. If not, well, then they won't. This proposal doesn't seem to have legs to me." The result: Approved for $600,000
Bangor The proposal: Subsidize year-round flights to New York My take: "There are far better uses for federal funds than adding yet more service to an already decently-served market." The result: Denied
As you can see, I only got two out of five right. We all agreed that Elko shouldn't get money to fund that second Reno flight, and we also agreed that Bangor doesn't need another flight to New York. But while I liked Dubuque's and Escanaba's programs, the feds did not. And mind-bogglingly, they funded Midland to work on that new flight to the West. So how did they decide to dole out the funds?
Well, there were 16 awards in total. Much of these funds went to support marketing programs to help the local service. Five of those went to cities (Redding, Missoula, State College, Sioux Falls, and Wichita Falls) with higher than average airfares, so they wanted to give them money to help expand service to bring costs down. Three went to cities (Bullhead City, Moses Lake, Aroostook County) that lost all their service and want to bring some back. Two went to cities (Merced and West Yellowstone) that are Essential Air Service cities and want to help their service and potentially get off the EAS program.
Looking at this, I can see why some got it and some didn't, but the Midland award still makes no sense to me at all. They have high airfares yet Southwest serves the community well? Something sounds fishy to me, but I'll have to assume there's some political reason for it.
[Updated on 10/8: I noted that three airports lost all service, but in fact they have only lost all scheduled service. That does not mean that they do not have charter or general aviation operations. I should have been more clear.]