After several years of work, the Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded Willard Airport an $850,000 grant to help secure nonstop flights to a Washington, DC area airport. The Grant is matched by more than $1.2 million in local funds contributed by almost two-dozen Champaign-Urbana organizations and companies.
Willard competes against many other airports for funding from the DOT’s Small Community Air Service Development Grant Program (SCASDP). It had $16.9 million available for all airports. 48 airports applied for funding, and just 25, including Willard, won. Airports requested more than $33 million in funding, but the DOT could only award about half that amount.
To win funding, Willard Airport had to illustrate a strong business case that the service can be successful, community support and matching funding, and that airline service at Willard has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Willard’s capacity is down by a third since the pandemic began.
“We couldn’t be happier to be selected for this grant, which will directly support a Minimum Revenue Guarantee (MRG) and associated marketing program to recruit, initiate, and support potential service to the Washington, DC region,” said Tim Bannon, Willard Airport Executive Director. “This grant will put our community in a strong position to continue efforts in landing a highly coveted route to the nation’s capital.”
The Airport has already been in talks with prospective carriers to discuss the Grant, and its potential to mitigate risk in starting the new route. Current pilot shortages means that service is unlikely to begin in 2023, but service could start in 2024.
Willard was the only airport in Illinois to receive funding.