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$900,000 GRANT TO AID AIRPORT REGIONAL SERVICE EFFORT GETS A BOOST.

Byline: RICK ORLOV and CHARLES F. BOSTWICK Staff Writers

PALMDALE -- Efforts to increase use of Palmdale Regional Airport received a major boost this week with a $900,000 federal grant to help subsidize regional jet airline service.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford announced in a joint statement that the Department of Transportation agreed to provide the grant as part of $5 million program to develop regular air service at the Palmdale facility.

``This is an exciting step forward in bringing commercial air service back to Palmdale,'' Ledford said. ``This is a great day for our region.''

The funds will be used to guarantee support to regional jet service operators to provide connecting service to markets such as Phoenix, San Francisco and Dallas-Forth Worth, officials said.

Negotiations are under way with several carriers interested in the program, officials said.

The money could be useful in attracting airlines, by guaranteeing to cover part of their expense in coming into an area that has never had jet airline service, Ledford said.

``I think it will remove a certain amount of risk. It allows the market to prove itself,'' Ledford said.

Palmdale lost its only airline in January when Scenic Airlines pulled out, saying it wasn't carrying enough passengers to make money on its flights to and from north Las Vegas.

Scenic, which operated 19-passenger turboprop aircraft out of Palmdale for just over a year, was the first airline in the Antelope Valley in nearly seven years.

Commuter airlines United Express, America West and SkyWest operated between the Palmdale Regional Airport terminal and LAX in the 1990s -- sometimes two airlines at a time. All pulled out after failing to generate profits with their Palmdale operations. The last pulled out in 1998.

Villaraigosa said the grant dovetails with his push to regionalize air traffic beyond Los Angeles International Airport.

``Fostering the long-term viability of Palmdale is one of the many ways regional aviation can be achieved,'' Villaraigosa said. ``The grant places Palmdale ... on the right track toward achieving a true regional aviation system.''

The grant will be matched with $3.7 million in local funds as part of the ``Wheels Up Palmdale'' program. Other contributors include Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, the Antelope Valley Board of Trade, the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.

``This vital step forward to establish commercial air service at Palmdale Regional Airport illustrates the federal government's confidence in the airport's future success,'' Antonovich said. ``The Department of Transportation also understands that Palmdale Regional Airport will have a key role in meeting the expected doubling of demand for air service in the region over the next 25 years.''

rick.orlov(at)dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 12, 2006
Words:457
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