Published 11:00 am Sunday, July 31, 2022
J.E.T. Natchez, our initiative for bringing commercial air service back to our airport, is about to land in Natchez!
Just this past Tuesday, Mark Cestari, Chief Commercial Officer for Southern Airways, the nation’s fastest growing commuter airline, said the words we’ve been waiting to hear: “We find Natchez to be a good fit for us… We can envision beginning as early as October… Daily flights from Natchez to Memphis…. Daily flights from Natchez to New Orleans… Flights next year to Houston and Dallas… We are hopeful that Natchez will be our next winner.”
What a blessing to hear this good news! Natchez – we’ve come a long way. It seems like so long ago, April of 2021, when Marla and I travelled to Greenville with then Board of Supervisors President Angela Hutchins, along with Supervisor Wes Middleton, Airport Director Richard Nelson, and local pilot and businessman Tate Hobdy, to meet with Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons and Greenville Mid-Delta Airport Director Samuel Washington to learn more about their commercial service and how Natchez might follow suit.
Inspired by our visit, and emboldened by the vast experience, vision and leadership of our Airport Director Richard Nelson and his outstanding team of Airport Commissioners, we pressed forward with our goal to restore commercial air service in Natchez for the first time in almost 30 years. The city and county partnered, and we hired an outstanding airport consultant, Jeremiah Gerald, who immediately began working on our air traffic study and plan.
In addition, grants were obtained to fully restore the runway (almost $5 Million) and replace runway lighting with computerized LED (almost $1.1 Million), and the city and county pledged $500,000 in ARPA funds to establish a risk mitigation account required in order to begin commercial air service with any carrier. Ironically, work began on the lighting project the very day we met with Mr. Cestari, and the runway project is almost complete
Jobs. Education. Tourism. Put them together and you have J.E.T. Natchez – and it’s finally happening! It couldn’t be coming at a better time, as we begin so many great things for our region: Renovation of our Convention Center and City Auditorium; Welcoming new cruise boats to the Mississippi River (our new total will be nine!); Christening the American Symphony on August 30 (Natchez will be her “Godmother City” and eventually her home port and port of origination); and more television and movie projects coming to Natchez – filming of the History Channel’s miniseries “The Great Escape, Season 2”, begins August 8! Another eight episodes are being shot right here in our beautiful City on the Hill, and we can’t wait to welcome Morgan Freeman back to Natchez! Add to this our desire to build more in Workforce Development and Education, to include even pilot training and airport mechanic training, and the timing is even better!
Words are inadequate to express our gratitude for our partnership with Adams County, Richard Nelson, and our great team of Airport Commissioners, led by Chairman John McCullough and Vice-Chairman Dante Weir.
Working together we are truly making great things happen. Because when it comes to commercial flights, jobs, education, and tourism, Natchez Deserves More!
Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.
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