Air service provides vital link to world

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Now that Kearney, Grand Island and Hastings are cooperating on a "Tri-City Initiative" for air service, where does that leave McCook? Will there be an increase, or a decrease, in scheduled airline service to this Southwest Nebraska community?

"It shouldn't affect us," said Doug Vap, a member of the Nebraska Aeronautics Commission and an active worker for McCook air service interests. "Because McCook is more than 210 miles from a major airport hub, the community should maintain the same level of service it has now."

For a town of 8,000 population, that is a high level of air service, with three inbound and three outbound flights to and from Denver every weekday.

For a while, there was talk of even greater levels of air service for McCook. In recent months, Kearney's Air Transportation Committee had been meeting with McCook officials about a "dual hub" with additional service to and from Kansas City. But -- even though the Kearney and McCook councils signed a contract -- the daily flights to Kansas City may no longer be in the picture for McCook. The KC flights are in doubt because of the "regional hub" plan worked out by Kearney and Grand Island.

As part of the regional hub approach, flights originating in Grand Island would go to Denver, as they do now, and flights originating in Kearney would go to Kansas City. McCook's council is still awaiting word about the status of the contract and whether Kearney plans to honor it, but Vap said this morning that he's not very optimistic.

The McCook air service advocate is flying to Denver today to discuss a grant program which would help small airports with marketing programs. Promotion is greatly needed here, as very little advertising is currently done. While in Denver, Vap will be having lunch with Chuck Howell, the president of Great Lakes Airlines, the air service provider for McCook, to discuss the marketing grant and other air service matters.

As Kearney and Grand Island go forward with their regional hub plans, they need to remember the important role McCook plays in air service for outstate Nebraska. Since the days when Frontier served this area, there has been scheduled air service in and out of McCook. And, currently, McCook is a vital link in service to Denver, teaming with Grand Island for the daily flights to and from the Denver International Airport.

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