PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) It is a day city officials in Pikeville say they have waited years for. A new program approved by the Federal Aviation Administration is in place that will bring commercial air service to the region.
A specially called joint meeting between the Pikeville City Commission and the Pike County Regional Airport board was held on Friday. The meeting was called to review and vote on two contracts that will bring commercial air service to the airport.
For years plans of bringing the service to Eastern Kentucky have been discussed and that is why Pikeville officials say Friday's meeting was monumental for the region.
Project Consultant Luke Schmidt says, "We have reached a critical milestone in this project and were able to present a contract for use of the airport as well as a contract for air service."
Both contracts passed, and the plan is to begin daily roundtrip service to Nashville International Airport beginning in March 2014.
"This is not only providing service but also opening ourselves up to the rest of the world for trade and working on a way to diversify our economy," explains Pikeville City Manager Donovan Blackburn. "With the war on coal, we are losing jobs. We have to find a way to open ourselves up and make the area more enticing."
Officials say none of this would have been possible without the help of Congressman Hal Rogers and support from the community which allowed them to receive a $750,000 federal grant.
Blackburn says, "Over 200 businesses worked with the chamber to write letters, the power of business...asking for the service, writing about what it would mean to their businesses. We had more letters submitted for that federal grant than any other community in the entire nation."
Officials say it is a risk, "Will it work? We don't know, but if we don't try it shame on us because our community deserves quality healthcare, a quality education, an expo center for good entertainment, and quality services such as commercial air," says Blackburn.
However, it is a risk officials say they are willing to take to help improve the region.
Officials are planning an formal ceremony for October 17th. The aircraft and its local brand name will be unveiled at that ceremony.
The flight will be operated by Public Charters.