McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport to add second destination; attract more business

MADISON COUNTY, Tenn. — Fewer flights, higher cost and more competition.

It’s the battle small airports across the country have been fighting for years.

“Since 9/11, service has been spotty, and the carriers have been spotty,” said Steve Smith, executive director of the Jackson-Madison County Airport Authority.

But Smith says McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport  is working to fix that.

“With Air Choice One, we’ve seen a reliability rate and a completion rate of 99 percent, and you cant do a whole lot better than that,” he said.

Right now, passengers can only fly to St. Louis.

But the airport is hoping to expand it’s commercial service to the Gulf Coast of Florida.

“We are excited about where we are going with Air Choice, and what new destinations may be out there,” Smith said,

McKellar-Sipes is one of 170 rural airports across the country that uses essential air services funding from the government to function.

Smith says about 15 people a day take a flight, but additional service could raise that.

For many, flying out of a small airport has its advantages.

“I have family here in Jackson, so in 15 minutes I’m here at the airport and I’m back home in just a few hours, so the convenience of it is great,” said Bryan McMorris, who frequently flies from the airport.

President of Tennessee Aircraft Services Paul New says the airport isn’t only convenient for passengers, but for  small business.

“Small companies will travel, leave in the morning and go do their business and be able to be able to return in the same day,” he said.

New says when it comes to attracting new business, most companies will look at a region’s airport.

“They determine where they are going to be or where they are going to locate based in the airport capabilities,” he said.

As the closest airport to the megasite, Smith says McKellar-Sipes is not only ready for more commercial service, but growth in all areas.

“McKellar-Sipes is ready,” Smith said. “We have a one million dollar hanger that’s completed and empty and ready for a tenant.”

Smith says a survey was sent out to determine what additional destination people wanted.

He says the flight to Florida’s gulf coast will most likely be added sometime next year.