Will Southern Airways make a difference here?
Posted at 12:50 p.m. on Saturday, August 20, 2022
For the editor:
Reading in The Democrat the exuberant news that Natchez will get a scheduled airline, Southern Airways Express, is thrilling. Also reading that Natchez hadn’t had a scheduled airline since 1975 strikes me as baffling since South Central Air Transport (SCAT Airline) and its merged partner Air Illinois provided scheduled flights from Natchez to air hubs in New Orleans, Jackson and Memphis on 18-seat Jetstream turbofans from 1975 to 1982!
SCAT provided free parking at Natchez Airport, rates as low as $10 when you go on any major airline as we had joint rate agreements with all of them. Almost all of our pilots were Vietnam War Air Force veterans. Our chief pilot was Stan Guess who came to us from Trans World Airlines (TWA). Our maintenance was done here at Natchez under the direction of Tom Beazley, who came over from England and previously worked for Handley Page Aircraft, the original manufacturer of the Jetstream aircraft. SCAT employed 68 people, most of them here in Natchez.
SCAT was not well supported at Natchez as Natchez bookings were among the lowest in the airline’s system. During all the time we have been operating, we have never had an accident and none of our employees have ever had a serious accident at work.
Other regional airlines have come to Natchez over the past few years, but they quickly failed due to a lack of community support. Trans-Texas was one of them. They didn’t last 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 might pick up cruise passengers flying to the Memphis hub, but Natchez shouldn’t expect an onslaught of cruise passengers coming to Natchez from those nine-passenger planes. According to Wikipedia, they also own two 30-year-old Saab 640s that can seat up to 28 passengers. If these were used, it could definitely make a difference. A river cruise ship based at Natchez would require inbound air support at Natchez for at least 200 and even better 300 personnel for each cruise. Is there a problem here?
Andrew L. Peabody is a resident of Natchez