Tester: Hard work paid off for Montana’s Essential Air Service

There's nothing like driving a few hundred miles across eastern Montana to remind you just how truly essential Essential Air Service is here in Big Sky Country.

Over the past few months my staff and I have worked closely with the U.S. Department of Transportation and Great Lakes Aviation—the company that's picking up where Big Sky Airlines left off when it went out of business earlier this year.

After a few days traveling the Hi-Line last week, we got news that our hard work paid off.  Great Lakes announced it's restoring service later this summer to Sidney, Miles City and Lewistown—from Denver. 

It's good news.  Folks across Montana sounded the alarm and called me up as soon as they got wind of the Essential Air Service shakeup.  And together, we went to work.

Last month, when it became clear that Great Lakes would not resume Essential Air Service by July 1, I told the Secretary of Transportation to get the ball rolling.  I also called up Doug Voss, the President of Great Lakes, to make sure he knows how important EAS is to Montana.  My staff calls Doug every week for a progress review.  We also stay in touch with the head of the EAS program, the Montana EAS Task Force and Governor Schweitzer's office.

All that hard work paid off just in time to celebrate the July Fourth weekend.  But we're not done yet.  Down the road, Great Lakes plans to restore service from Billings to Glasgow, Glendive, Havre and Wolf Point.  It can't happen soon enough.  I'll keep pushing Great Lakes and the U.S. Department of Transportation until they live up to their end of the bargain.

Essential Air Service isn't simply about convenience.  It's about making sure folks in rural Montana have quick access to health care when they need it most.  It's about shortening distances for folks who do business across Montana, which strengthens our economy.  And it's about bringing new opportunities to smaller communities across our state.

Responsive constituent service is one of my top priorities as your United States Senator.  That's why I—along with Max Baucus—will keep working hard to make sure EAS is an option for all Montanans, no matter where they live. 

As always, feel free to call my office, toll-free in Montana, at 1-866-554-4403.  I'd love to hear from you.  Stay in touch.