By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
Cape Air officials expect to hit 10,000 annual boardings at Quincy Regional Airport this morning, qualifying the airport for a $1 million federal grant.
"We're ecstatic. We'll be able to make some great capital improvements at the airport with that money," Mayor John Spring said.
The last time the city qualified for the federal airport maintenance funds was 2002.
Cape Air has provided flights between Quincy and St. Louis since November 2009 and has been building ridership ever since. The Hyannis, Mass.-based airline had 9,248 passengers in Quincy in 2011 and 7,027 in 2010.
Stacey Putnam Ross, Cape Air's Midwest marketing manager, believes the airline can keep adding to its passenger numbers in coming years.
"This is something we've been working toward all year. We're thrilled that we've hit that goal and we're excited to keep growing in Quincy," Ross said.
"Next year's advance bookings are up 35 percent over advance bookings from January 2012. That's an especially good sign in what is traditionally a slow travel month."
Ross believed the 10,000th passenger of the year would be on one of two morning flights. Due to an expanded flight schedule during the holidays, Cape Air will have departures at 10:40 and 10:50 Saturday morning. City officials will hold a short ceremony before the appropriate flight and award the 10,000th ticket-holder a set of round-trip tickets from Cape Air and the city.
"I can't say thank you enough to all the patrons who have used Cape Air in the past year," Spring said.
Airport Manager Jeff Steinkamp said the Quincy Aeronautics Committee has assembled a priority list that includes rehabilitation of runway 4/22, rehabilitation of taxiway D, taxiway E or construction of a new taxiway F. The airport entrance road may be improved and an overall revised airport layout plan has been considered.
Cape Air was founded in 1989 when Dan Wolf, the airline's CEO and founder, piloted planes between Providencetown and Boston, Mass. The airline has grown to a fleet of more than 64 Cessna 402s, transporting more than 650,000 passengers per year.
Cape Air has commuter flights between six regional airports and St. Louis. Last year the airports in Quincy and Marion in Illinois, Owensboro in Kentucky and Kirksville, Cape Girardeau and Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri handled more than 70,000 boardings combined.
Ross said this year's figures have not been totaled, but most of those airports have seen higher boarding numbers.