Posted on May 1, 2017
Published by El Dorado News Times
EL DORADO — Southern Airways Express is set to land its first scheduled flight at South Arkansas Regional Airport at 10:45 a.m. today.
The city’s new commercial airline service will then make its inaugural El Dorado-to-Dallas flight 30 minutes later, said Mark Cestari, vice president of business development.
Cestari said he will be onboard when the nine-seat Cessna Caravan touches down at Goodwin Field, en route from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
It will also be the first commercial, Essential Air Service activity to take place at Goodwin Field since the city’s former EAS provider, SeaPort Airlines, was ordered last September to cease operations due to a bankruptcy filing.
Southern — which is headquartered in Southaven, Mississippi — was awarded a federal contract to pick up the EAS routes that were vacated by SeaPort in El Dorado, Hot Springs and Harrison.
The U.S. Department of Transportation upheld its decision following an appeal, in which community leaders reiterated their preference for another candidate, Contour Airlines.
Cestari said Southern is looking forward to serving the community with daily flights to Dallas, noting that he met several civic, business and community leaders during a welcome lunch several weeks ago.
“Everyone seemed supportive. El Dorado is the last of the three (Arkansas Essential Air Service cities) where we’re getting started, and we’re excited about it,” Cestari said.
During an El Dorado Airport Commission meeting earlier this month, Tim Johnson, manager of South Arkansas Regional Airport, said the group needed to encourage citizens and local business and industry to use the new air service.
Southern had bid three flights per weekday from El Dorado to Dallas, with an adjusted flight schedule for Saturday and Sunday.
However, Cestari said the airline will start off with one daily flight as company officials work out the logistics to boost the number of daily flights by the end of the of the month.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.