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Airline still flying in Lake Clear

A Cape Air staff member loads passengers’ baggage on a plane in November 2014 in Lake Clear at the Adirondack Regional Airport, which is owned and run by the town of Harrietstown. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

SARANAC LAKE — Though the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, especially in New York, airports in the U.S. are still open.

“That’s up to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) or the president,” said Corey Hurwitch, manager of the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear. “Because we have federal obligations to stay open, we can’t just go ahead and say that we’re closing without their approval.”

Even if airports remain open, commercial airlines don’t have to fly. The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are considering grounding planes to save money and to slow the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, Cape Air is still flying out of Adirondack Regional.

“We had one cancellation the other night because of weather, but otherwise, they’ve been flying,” Hurwitch said. “They make their decision independent of us making our decision. Winter storms are a good example. Say the runway is good enough for us to open, then they have to make the decision: Is the runway safe enough for their standards?”

The airport, which is owned by the town of Harrietstown, has multiple tenants. The New York State Police operates its helicopters there, and North Country Life Flight’s flight nursing operation is based there as well. Cape Air makes three commercial passenger flights to Boston and back every day. Private pilots land and take off there as well.

Hurwitch said traffic has slowed down in the past few weeks.

“It’s definitely been a drop-off,” he said. “It’s hard to say because it’s so seasonal, but we’ve noticed a drop compared to previous years.”

Hurwitch said the airport should remain open.

“For many people, it’s the same as keeping roads open,” he said. “There is a necessity for some people to travel. For emergency situations, Life Flight is still available. Our State Police are still flying. Utilities use airports. National Grid comes in with their helicopters, so they can check power lines. There is still a lot of needs for airports that are above and beyond just the airlines.”

Hurwitch said if the FAA did shut airports down, emergency services would likely still be able to use them, similar to the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“It didn’t really close airports down, but it closed them down to commercial traffic and a lot of private traffic,” he said.

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