Not only can it be harder for small school districts on the hi-line of Montana to get their hands on new technology - and quickly - but these districts also take a lot of travel time in order to reach them for help. Lucky for both of us, there is now a much faster way to reach these northern districts by air.
Last December, The U.S. Transportation Department teamed up with a Massachusetts-based company, Cape Air, on a two-year contract to provide daily roundtrip flights between Billings, Havre, Glasgow, Wolf Point, Sydney, and Glendive.
The Essential Air Service (EAS) program has been helping small towns throughout the U.S. receive air service, although the program has remained controversial. Due to budget cuts and not enough passengers, Lewistown and Miles City were dropped from the EAS flight program.
Our Technology Consultant Matt Hall uses the service often to travel from Billings to Havre to help districts on the hi-line. Hall travels two weeks out of every month to visit schools such as Medicine Lake, Havre, Plentywood, Sydney, among many other northeastern districts.
“I get to see these districts more frequently because it’s so much faster,” Hall said of the new program.
The EAS service has allowed for the consultant to reach schools for sudden emergencies. “I had a board meeting that I was invited to last minute, and I was able to make a connection and get to it on time,” Hall said. “Without [the service] I wouldn’t have been able to make it.”
Not only has the program benefited Pine Cove with reaching clients fast, but also with budgeting. “It’s cheaper. It takes me a full tank of gas to drive there, which costs about $80. I can fly there for $49,” said Hall. Round trip costs via car cost Hall about $160 in gas, plus a likely hotel room in order to get a full day in with clients. While one typical travel day for Hall costs around $200 with a vehicle, a round trip flight with Cape Air only cost $98- plus time to fly back in the same day.
Hall predicts that with increasing necessity for these connections, there could eventually be more flights per day. “I would love to see Cape Air come to Bozeman. And to fly to western parts of the state.” Hall says that he would utilize it to see the northwest clients, such as Kalispell, more often.
“Essential Air Service is needed in states like Montana with small populations spread over big distances so that business people and other residents can get around more easily,” Hall said.
To read more on Cape Air in Montana, go to the article HERE