NEWPORT — Rural air service to the Newport Municipal Airport has failed takeoff, for now.
City officials applied for a rural air service grant, or ROAR grant, from the Oregon Department of Aviation earlier this year, which competed with grants from three other cities. The department only funded one proposal from Coos Bay.
“The specific issues why they didn’t fund our grant request were, first of all, it was set up as a guaranteed payment, not as a subsidy,” said Newport City Manager Spencer Nebel. “It wasn’t guaranteed revenue.”
Guaranteed revenue, under federal regulations, is the only revenue stream the city could have gone forward with in funding air service to Newport. The funding strategy city officials proposed in the ROAR grant application, a subsidy, can’t legally be provided by the Oregon Department of Aviation’s grant, according to a staff report from Newport Municipal Airport Director Lance Vanderbeck.
If the city had been successful in getting passenger flights to and from the Newport Municipal Airport, private passenger line Boutique Air would have been the service provider to fly tourists and locals back and forth to and from the Portland International Airport. The air service would have been paid for by the $500,000 ROAR grant.
Another wrench in the gears of Newport securing commercial air service was that the Coos Bay grant was just more competitive. According to Nebel, the Coos Bay grant had more private funding behind it to help subsidize air service there.
Boutique Air, a small commercial airline, was going to bring passengers to and from the small municipal airport if the money was there. City officials here do want to try again next year, and hope to mimic the offer Coos Bay brought to the table in hopes of being successful the next go-around.
“We’re going to spend some time on it before the next grant round, which would be next spring, to see if that’s a possibility or not,” Nebel said Monday. “We were unsuccessful with the grant, and we’ll bring it back to the council sometime early in 2020 for further discussion.”