Several commercial air carriers vying to bring service to Natchez-Adams County Airport

Published 4:14 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Natchez has more than Southern Airways vying to be a commercial air carrier in Natchez, thanks to grant funds acquired and others that may come Natchez’s way soon.

In the three-and-a-half years that Richard Nelson has been its director, the Natchez-Adams County Airport has earned $10 million in grant funding. Recently, the airport received a $750,000 grant to go toward helping lure a commercial air carrier to Natchez. It is in the running for another $2.5 million in grant funds, also meant to help fund a commercial air service.

Natchez-Adams County Airport Director of Aviation Richard Nelson.

“We are moving in the right direction,” Nelson told members of The Rotary Club of Natchez at their noon meeting Wednesday at the Natchez Grand Hotel.

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He said officials at Southern Airways have expressed their desire to begin flights out of Natchez to New Orleans and Memphis this year. However, Nelson said a decision on who should be the city’s first air carrier and work with them on the grant funds likely will not be made until he returns from a meeting with at least six other air carriers, which is set for sometime in October in Las Vegas.

A study of the Natchez market conducted before the airport began actively recruiting a commercial carrier showed more than 800 residents of the Natchez market fly each week. The study also showed connecting through Houston or Dallas would serve the market best.

“The grant calls for service to Dallas or Houston,” Nelson said. “Another airline we are talking with wants to operate three flights a week. We are trying to get to add more flights. We don’t think that’s enough. Even though these would be lots larger planes.”

Southern Airways is proposing operating nine-passenger turboprops for Natchez flights.

Nelson said the county’s board of supervisors; the city’s board of aldermen and the airport commission would make a final decision about a commercial air carrier.

In response to a Rotarian’s question, Nelson said the airport’s new runway was large enough for a 767-600 aircraft to land safely.

“There are not too many planes that cannot land at our airport,” he said.

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Wes Middleton, who attended Wednesday’s Rotary meeting, said he wanted Rotarians to know how fortunate the Natchez-Adams community is because Nelson is its airport director.

“That grant amount doubles what the airport has gotten in the last 30 or 40 years,” Middleton said. “Richard Nelson is a tremendous asset in our community.”