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Efforts to provide local air service crash as jet fuel prices rise

When Mesa Airways’ last flight takes off from Merced Municipal Airport tonight, the future of local air service will be up in the air in more ways than one.

Great Lakes Airlines was scheduled to take over Merced’s passenger flights right away, but the carrier now says it can’t do that. The $1.8 million federal subsidy that pays for the service isn’t big enough to cover spiking jet fuel costs, Great Lakes has told city officials.

Now Great Lakes wants to apply for a bigger subsidy from the U.S. Department of Transportation. But the DOT won’t decide whether Great Lakes wins the contract until sometime after June 13, when applications for the subsidy are due.

Until then, Merced will be without passenger air service for the first time since 1947.

Video: Watch Great Lakes Airlines CEO Charles R. Howell IV make a presentation to local air officials during a Sept. 2007 meeting.