Appalachian Air is celebrating its first round-trip commercial flight.
The airline flew from Pikeville to Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday and returned about 12 hours later.
The maiden flight had fewer than 10 aboard, but Appalachian Air officials say they think seats will fill up as more people learn about the service. The Jetstream J32 turboprop aircraft holds 19 passengers.
Appalachian Air spokesman Luke Schmidt says officials hope that bringing commercial air service to eastern Kentucky will help the economy.
“We think that by connecting Pikeville and Eastern Kentucky to the global air system, it will help create jobs,” Schmidt said. “It will help people interested in investing in the region to get here and find out what a great community it is and what is available here.”
The flight came about six months later than originally planned because airport offi cials had to wait to get the proper certifications.
Skip Holmes with the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce was aboard the flight and said landing close to home was the best part.
“ Being able to come here, get in my car, be in my easy chair in 15 minutes, that’s perfect,” Holmes said.
The service will offer daily flights from Pikeville to Nashville.
Meanwhile, the Appalachian News-Express reports that officials are still working with the Transportation Safety Administration in an effort to get screeners at the airport.
Pikeville City Manager Donovan Blackburn called the start of air service in Pikeville a “great day.”
“ The development of commercial air service in Pikeville has been a community goal going all the way back to 1968,” he said in a statement. “The City of Pikeville appreciates the commitment and the investment that both Corporate Flight Management and Public Charters have made to the city. Now we want anyone who is planning a trip by air to first consider flying Appalachian Air, no matter where you are going. Chances are you will be able to fly right out of Pikeville and avoid the six hour roundtrip drive to Lexington.”