Will Southern Airways make a difference here?

Published 12:50 pm Saturday, August 20, 2022

To the editor:

Reading in The Democrat the exuberant news that Natchez will get a scheduled airline, Southern Airways Express, is exciting. Also reading that Natchez had no scheduled airline since 1975 seems to boggle my mind since South Central Air Transport (SCAT Airline) and its merged partner Air Illinois provided scheduled flights from Natchez to airline hubs in New Orleans, Jackson and Memphis on Jetstream turbo-jets seating 18 passengers from 1975 until 1982!

SCAT provided free parking at the Natchez airport, fares as little as $10 when going onto any major airline for we had joint fare agreements with them all. Almost all of our pilots were Air Force veterans of the Vietnam War. Our Chief Pilot was Stan Guess who came to us from Trans World Airlines (TWA). Our maintenance was done here in Natchez headed by Tom Beazley, who came over from England previously working for Handley Page Aircraft, the original manufacturer of the Jetstream aircraft. SCAT employed 68 people, most of them here in Natchez.

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SCAT was not well supported in Natchez for bookings from Natchez were amongst the lowest in the airline’s system. During all the time we operated, we never had an accident nor did any of our employees ever have a serious accident while at work.

Other regional airlines have come into Natchez during the past few years, but they failed quickly due to a lack of support from the community. Trans-Texas was one of them. They lasted no more than a month or two. (They became Continental Airways and are now United Airlines.)

Southern Airways Express flies nine-passenger Cessnas and Pipers. They have a base in Memphis and could collect cruise passengers flying into the Memphis hub, but Natchez should not be expecting an onslaught of cruise passengers coming into Natchez from these nine-passenger planes. According to Wikipedia, they also own two 30-year-old Saab 640’s that seat up to 28 passengers. If these were utilized, it could certainly make a difference. A river cruise ship based in Natchez would need aircraft support entering Natchez for at least 200 and better yet 300 people for each cruise. Is there a problem here?

Andrew L. Peabody is a Natchez resident