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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 13, 2009

SCHUMER URGES DELTA & JETBLUE TO CONSIDER NEW SERVICE AT WATERTOWN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - INTEREST FROM AIRLINE COULD LEAD TO MAJOR EXPANSION OF RUNWAY, BOOST ECONOMY


With Recent Fort Drum Expansion and Economic Growth, Watertown is in Need of Greater Service Options and Longer, 7,000 Foot Runway at Airport to Land New Carriers

FAA Is Finalizing Environmental Study of Runway Expansion and Will Decide If it is 1000' or 2000' Based on Interest From Potential Airline Carriers

Larger Runway Could Accommodate More Affordable Air Service to Watertown Area Residents; Schumer Today Personally Urged Delta and JetBlue CEOs to Meet with Local Officials to Investigate Opportunities

In an effort to expand the runway and bring low-cost air service to Watertown International Airport, U.S. Senator Schumer today urged both Delta and JetBlue airlines to meet with Jefferson County and Airport officials. Schumer said that Watertown has experienced significant Fort Drum-driven population and economic growth in the last several years, making it an ideal location to launch new service and expand its runway in the coming years. Schumer said that the FAA will determine whether they will approve expanding the runway to a much-needed 7,000 feet instead of 6,000 feet based on the airlines’ interest in bringing service to Watertown.
 
In an effort to make sure that the airport could expand its runway to the necessary length and increase airline capacity, Schumer personally wrote letters to both Delta CEO Richard Anderson and JetBlue CEO Dave Barger urging them to meet with local Watertown officials in order to support a longer runway expansion and bring service to Watertown when it is complete.
 
“It’s no secret that Watertown’s fast-growing population and high demand for travel options is an economically promising bright spot in the North Country,” said Schumer. “Delta and JetBlue have a golden opportunity to take advantage of this growing demand by introducing new service to the area. This would be a win-win-win for the airlines and for Watertown – the airport would be able to expand its runway, the airlines would have a growing new market to service, and residents and the town would have low-cost air service that would boost the local economy and could create new jobs.”
 
Over the last several years, Watertown Airport officials have been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to secure an environmental approval of a runway expansion project. One of the remaining issues for the FAA and Watertown to determine is whether to expand this runway to 6000’ or 7000’ from its current 5000’ length. At only 6000’ some larger aircraft carrying 50, 70 or 86 passengers are unable to utilize the Watertown Airport, or are forced to take on fewer passengers, cargo and fuel. This limits both the destinations that a carrier like Delta can fly to and also prevents it from maximizing the Watertown travel market.   
 
The FAA has indicated that they will rely on the interest and staging requirements of potential carriers to determine what length runway expansion should be approved.
 
Schumer today said the situation presented a critical opportunity for both Watertown and the airlines. In an effort to secure both a 7,000 foot runway and bring low-cost, expanded air service to local residents, Schumer pushed both Delta and JetBlue to work with local officials on the situation.
 
Schumer said that Watertown, as home to Fort Drum and the Army’s 10th Mountain Light Infantry Division, has experienced significant population and economic growth in the last several years, making it an ideal place to launch new air service and expand the length of the runway at the airport.  The demand for air service is high in the Watertown area. In 2007, the military bused 9,043 soldiers on official military travel to Syracuse, not to mention the thousand of additional trips taken by the families of military personnel.  
 
Schumer today wrote that introducing Delta and JetBlue to Watertown’s dynamic market and demonstrating the growth great potential at the Watertown Airport will help the FAA determine that there is sufficient airline interest to justify expanding the runway 2000 additional feet.
 
Schumer indicated that expanded service in Watertown and a longer runway would help Delta and JetBlue take advantage of the growing demand for air service in the region.
 
In his letter Schumer wrote, “I strongly believe that it is important to build infrastructure for the future and lay all the necessary groundwork for a city like Watertown to grow and expand its air service. Providing them with a runway large enough to accommodate state of the art aircraft would ensure air travel would thrive in this community for years to come.”
 
A full copy of the Senator’s letter is below:

Richard Anderson
CEO
Delta Airlines
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Mr. Anderson,
 
I write to ask that you meet with officials from the Watertown International Airport to discuss the opportunity of beginning new air-service in the region and assisting them in their efforts to expand their runway from 5000’ to 7000’.  Home to Fort Drum and the Army’s 10th Mountain Light Infantry Division, Watertown has experienced significant population and economic growth in the last several years, making it an ideal place to launch service in the coming years.
 
The FAA has indicated that they will rely on the interest and staging requirements of potential carriers to determine what length runway expansion should be approved. To that end, introducing Delta to this dynamic market and demonstrating the growth potential inherent in the Watertown Airport will help the FAA determine that there is sufficient airline interest to justify expanding the runway 2000 additional feet.
 
Over the last several years, Watertown Airport officials have been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to secure the environmental approval of this runway expansion project. Given the commitment to this project by both parties, the approval should be granted no later than this spring. Construction could begin as early as this year with completion by 2010-2011. This timetable will give a carrier like Delta the adequate lead time to make the necessary arrangements were you to consider beginning operations in Watertown.
 
As indicated above, one of the remaining issues for the FAA and Watertown to determine is whether to expand this runway to 6000’ or 7000’ from its current 5000’ length. The size of an airport’s runway has a direct impact on the type of aircraft and flights that an airline can operate. At only 6000’ some larger aircraft carrying 50, 70 or 86 passengers could not utilize the facility, or would be forced to take on fewer passengers, cargo and fuel. These limitations would limit both the destinations that a carrier like Delta could fly to and also prevent you from maximizing the Watertown market.
 
I strongly believe that it is important to build infrastructure for the future and lay all the necessary groundwork for a city like Watertown to grow and expand its air service. Providing them with a runway large enough to accommodate state of the art aircraft would ensure air travel would thrive in this community for years to come.
 
Furthermore, expanding the runway the extra 1000’ will allow both the airport and the FAA to achieve a significant economy of scale, as a significant amount of the costs are associated initiating construction. Expanding the runway now is cost effective and will also preclude unnecessary future disruptions of aviation operations if the expansion were to be carried out in the future.  
 
In your discussions with Watertown, I would strongly urge you to look at the existing runway length and consider the advantages of building the 2000’ expansion. In turn, if you determine that Watertown presents new potential opportunities for Delta in the coming years, I would urge you to communicate that interest to the FAA. Specifically, any information you could provide them regarding the constraints of the airport’s current layout, the projected number of operations you might fly, the stage length of those operations, the date of service commencement and whether there is a need for improving landside facilities would be greatly helpful for them to make their decision.
 
I look forward to hearing from you on this important matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly with any questions on this issue.
 
 
                                                           Sincerely,
 
            
                                                           Charles E. Schumer
                                                           U.S. Senator

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