The Wright Flight Flies into D.C.

The future of Love Field--well, the Wright Amendment, anyway--will be discussed in D.C. on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will meet to discuss "Reforming the Wright Amendment." (Actually, it's the Subcommitee on Aviation hosting the hearing that begins at 1 p.m. C.S.T. in the Rayburn House Office Building, so named for the longtime Speaker of the House from Bonham.) At the heart of the discussion will be the agreement hammered out last month by Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and reps from American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which, among other things, will slowly repeal the Wright Amendment over the next eight long years and finally allow Southwest to fly anywhere in the country it wants ta. On Friday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that on the same day as the aviation subcommittee hearing, House and Senate bills should be filed that "mirror the Wright Amendment compromise" reached by the mayors.

But in no means is any of this a slam-dunk for those on the side of the compromise: JetBlue, Northwest Airlines and several congressmen have claimed the deal's unfair and are furious over not having been invited to the hearings. And two people who will show--U.S. Representatives Sam Johnson and Jeb Hensarling, both of Texas--issued a joint press release last month vowing to fight to a full and immediate repeal of the 27-year-old legislation that restricts flights out of Love Field. Said Hensarling, "The Wright Amendment places an unfair burden on air travelers and businesses by stifling natural free market forces competition." Joining Hensarling and Johnson on Wednesday will be four other U.S. Representative from Texas: Ralph Hall, Joe Barton, Kay Granger and Michael Burgess.

But Andrew Forbes, a legislative staff assistant for the aviation subcommittee, said this morning that the list of witnesses is not final. Before e-mailing over the tentative list, he told Unfair Park there could be additions and subtractions to the list until tomorrow morning, which means, perhaps, JetBlue could make the cut. (Don't count on it.) For the moment, also scheduled to testify will be the Federal Aviation Administration's Michael Cirillo, who's the vice president of system operations; the Dallas and Fort Worth mayors; American Airlines chairman and CEO Gerard Arpey; Southwest Airlines' chairman of the board Herb Kelleher (who will no doubt be jonesing for a smoke during his testimony); and Kevin Cox, the chief operating officer and senior executive vice president of D/FW Airport.

Should you want to watch this thing on C-SPAN--and Lords knows it'll be riveting TV--the network will not know till tomorrow evening whether it will carry the hearing either live or on tape delay, as assignments aren't generally made till the day before events are scheduled. Check back here to see whether you can watch Mayor Laura begin her farewell tour live Wednesday afternoon. But KRLD-AM (1080) is, far as we know at present, the only radio station in town with plans to devote a majority of its broadcast day to the hearings; news director Paul Mann says talk-show hosts Jay Mcfarland and Ernie Brown will be in D.C. on Wednesday, though he was unsure how much of the feed from the hearings would make it on air. "It all depends how much access we have to the feed," Mann says, adding that the mayors and other witnesses will be on air during the afternoon. --Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky