By Mike Linn: CNJ News Editor
For the third time in as many years, Clovis Municipal Airport Manager Stephen Summers is banking on a federal grant to help send passengers to the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
And he has a heavy hitter backing his proposal.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., on Wednesday threw his support toward a proposal that would grant $700,000 to municipal airports in Clovis and Hobbs.
The grant helps community airports implement new air service under the Small Community Air Service Development Pilot Program, of which Bingaman was an original co-sponsor.
The two airports now only have air service to Albuquerque.
“Clovis and Hobbs are dynamic communities that have recently attracted major new businesses to eastern new Mexico …” Bingaman wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta. “The Consortium is requesting the federal funds to help improve access to the national air transportation system by establishing new commercial air service to the Dallas/Fort Worth airports.”
Bingaman’s letter was provided through a press release from his Washington, D.C., office.
Summers said the recent increase in Clovis-area businesses bode well for his chances of obtaining the grant, which is allocated near summer’s end by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“This is the third time, so maybe the third time is a charm,” he said. “We’ve been designated a microplex along with Portales and are using that as a (population) figure because we are a large service base for outlying communities.”
Summers said if the grant is awarded to the Clovis airport, he would begin the process of finding an airline to provide service to Dallas.
The airport’s airline is Mesa Airlines, and Summers said officials there have sought to provide the Dallas service in the past.
However, the service could only be provided with the additional funds, he said.
He said businessmen, Cannon Air Force Base personnel and officials with Southwest Cheese and Glanbia would benefit greatly from the service.