FOR the first time since 2014, it appears that more than 10,000 paying passengers departed from Quincy Regional Airport last year, qualifying Baldwin Field for $1 million in federal maintenance funds.
Airport Manager Sandra Shore points out that it will be a few months before the U.S. Department of Transportation confirms the passenger count. Although she won't celebrate until the award is official, Shore tells how important the ridership number is for the airport.
"That would qualify us as a primary airport, which entitles us to $1 million in entitlement funds. That goes a lot further than the $150,000" that is awarded to airports with fewer boardings, Shore said.
In the long run, hitting 10,000 boardings could assure Quincy Regional Airport that it will remain eligible for the Essential Air Service program. Under EAS, the U.S. Department of Transportation makes supplemental payments to airlines that serve communities that would otherwise lose commercial flights.
The 2018 victory would not have been possible without three major partners in air travel. SkyWest Airlines, airport fixed-base operator Quincy Aviation and local air travelers all played their part.
SkyWest began offering flights to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in late 2017 and flew more than 9,100 ticket holders during 2018. Ridership on the 50-passenger jet aircraft rose by nearly 2,000 from the previous year when Cape Air was making flights to St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
The airline has been working out a few glitches that led to some cancellations and delays. Starting this month, the airline will decouple Quincy flights from Cape Girardeau, Mo., giving locally based mechanics a chance to fix any mechanical problems as the plane stays at the airport overnight.
Quincy Aviation has made important strides at the airport, acting as a local partner with several national air charter services.
Ryan Maxfield, a co-owner of Aero Management Group and Quincy Aviation, thinks departures on charter flights were somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 passengers last year. "(W)e're seeing six to 12 passengers on charter flights multiple times per week," Maxfield said.
After making renovations to the fixed-base operation, Maxfield hopes to see a more modern headquarters in the near future.
Obviously, ridership depends on local demand. Air travelers from Quincy and surrounding communities have used SkyWest and charter flights out of the airport. Business and leisure travelers have been taking flights out of Quincy in increasing numbers as more people learn about the available flights.
Air service provides a vital transportation connection for this region. Reliable, affordable, convenient air service is one of the essential pillars for sustaining economic development and enhancing quality of life.
When Quincy Regional Airport prospers, the larger community benefits. It is good to see the airport positioned for continued growth.