Southern Airways First Launch from DuBois Airport Quiet

JEFFERSON Co., Pa. (EYT) – Southern Airway’s first day at the DuBois Regional Airport was a quiet one.

The first three flights were scheduled to depart DuBois at 5:25 a.m., 7:30 a.m., and 11:00 a.m., according to Southern personnel. However, there were no reservations for the first two departure times. There were two passengers set to leave DuBois, including one who had flown in from elsewhere, on the 11:05 a.m. flight.

The plane that flew into DuBois didn’t arrive until 11:44 a.m.

As of 12:45 p.m., the flight had yet to depart, due to low-hanging clouds. According to Airport personnel, it did depart around 1:15 p.m.

Mark Cestari, the Executive Vice President of Business Development for Southern, said that the visibility of field was below the minimum standards.

“We had to wait due to the low ceiling. The pilots have the last word, and until they say go, we wait,” Cestari said.

The planes Southern uses, single-engine Cessna Caravans, typically fly at lower altitudes so a low ceiling can be a concern.

According to an article on “The Caravan is unpressurized — it’s not about raw speed, for which you need to fly high. Rather, it’s about good speed, with great performance in every other area. It’s not that you can’t fly the Caravan at high altitude — you can; its ceiling is 25,000 feet — but it isn’t made for it.”

Sharon McCurdy, of Ridgway, was set to be the first passenger out of DuBois. She said she was going to Pittsburgh to pick up a family car that had been left in the city after a death in the family.

Sharon McCurdy

“It’s a blessing,” McCurdy said. “It saves me from making the drive and for $59.00, it’s worth it. They (Southern) have been good at keeping me up to date about the delays.”

When Southern was awarded the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service contract in August, Stan Little, chairman and CEO of Southern said in September that he expected his airline to begin service at DuBois before Thanksgiving.

That was delayed to the end of November and then January 3, due to a shortage of pilots.

“We’re happy to be here,” Cestari said. “It’s not an ideal time to start, but you have to start some time. I wish the calendar said June 3 instead of January 3, but the weather isn’t that bad for this time of year here.”

Cestari said advance bookings were strong with people making spring travel plans beginning in April.

Southern is offering six daily flights from DuBois, three each to Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Area travelers lost the ability to fly from DuBois to Pittsburgh when U.S. Airways left Pittsburgh International Airport.

Pittsburgh flights are set for 5:25 a.m., 11:05 a.m., and 5:10 p.m.

Baltimore flights are set for 7:35 a.m., 1:35 p.m., and 7:35 p.m.

Flight costs vary from $29.00 to $69.00 to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, depending on when reservations are made and the destination.

For flights to Harrisburg, costs range from $151.40 to $251.40. Flights to Lancaster range from $62.40 to $152.40. Flights to Morgantown range from $52.40 to $102.40.

Combining the connecting flights to Pittsburgh and other large, international airports does give travelers hundreds of options, according to Cestari.

Airport Manager Bob Shaffer said airport signage would soon be changed to reflect Southern Airways as the new carrier.

“They were working on it behind the ticket counter, and I had hoped to have the new signs up by now, but it should be done in a few days,” Shaffer said.

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