News & Updates

Warbirds coming to benefit St. Jude

 April 24, 2017

Originally published in the Times Daily.

Dozens of vintage warplanes will be on display and in the Shoals skies during a June 10 event to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Shoals Warbird Weekend will feature a variety of warplanes on display at Northwest Alabama Regional Airport, said B.J. Kennamore, a pilot who is helping organize the event.

Many planes will fly over the Shoals, with pilots making certain to provide a perfect view of them for anyone at McFarland Park in Florence. That is the location of a St. Jude fundraiser, and Warbird Weekend organizers hope their event provides an additional draw to the park.

Kennamore was part of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 615 of the Shoals that sponsored the Shoals Warbird Weekend in 2014. St. Jude was holding a fundraiser at McFarland that same weekend, and when the pilots found out about that, they intentionally did flybys over the park. That gesture grew into the creation of the June 10 benefit, Kennamore said.

The event offers the opportunity to view the planes on the ground at the airport, but the ballpark near the airport will be open for the public to view them in flight.

The event will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is free at all locations, but donation boxes will be on hand.

"We'll have aircraft on display, have formation flights all day long, World War II aircraft and corporate jets, just a combination of a lot of different stuff," Kennamore said. "It's a rare opportunity. You don't see that many warbirds in one spot."

Planes include a World War II TBM Avenger torpedo bomber, which is the type President George H.W. Bush flew, Kennamore said.

"The wings flold up on it," he said. "It's a neat airplane. We'll have a conglomerate of old and new aircraft. We'll also have Russian and Chinese military crafts."

The Yakovlev Yak-52 and Nanchang CJ-6 are among those, Kennamore said.

"It's shaping up to be a really nice event, and we want this also to be a chance to showcase our airport," he said. "We really are fortunate to have an airport of this quality."

Kennamore is planning a sit-down dinner that evening at Windwood Pointe Aviation Estates, with keynote speaker John Casper, who'll also be on hand throughout the day.

Casper is a Vietnam veteran who earned two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star flying an F-100 Super Sabre.

RSVP volunteer helps keep airport safe

 April 20, 2017

Originally published in the Times Daily.

Willie T. Ricks is an integral part of the safety at Northwest Alabama Regional Airport.

For the past eight years, Ricks, 76, has been a fixture at the airport as a volunteer in the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, commonly known as RSVP.

Airport Director Barry Griffith said the volunteers help ensure the safety of the passengers arriving and departing on Boutique Air flights.

"They're more or less the eyes and ears of the airport," Griffith said. "We appreciate their efforts."

Ricks said he's also volunteered in Tuscumbia, Russellville, Leighton and Florence. He said volunteering lets him give back to his community.

"I love it," he said. "I take this job very seriously."

RSVP has been active in Colbert County since 2002, yet Carla Allen, director of Colbert County Homeland Security and RSVP, said many people are unfamiliar with the program.

It is federally funded through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, which helps cover the cost of operational expenses, staff training, and a recognition banquet for the volunteers. That federal funding is among the proposed cuts in President Donald Trump's budget.

County governments provide some type of in-kind match, and a small amount of funding comes from state and local governments. Colbert County provides RSVP with office space at a complex near Northwest-Shoals Community College, while Lauderdale County provides space in the Florence-Lauderdale Government Building.

Allen and her counterpart in Lauderdale County, Peggy Wallace, said they need more volunteers.

"We are currently funded for 160 volunteers but are trying to increase the number we have as some are in failing health and are becoming unable to volunteer," Allen said.

Wallace said she needs more volunteers ages 55 to 65, but they're difficult to find. People that age, she said, are frequently still working, caring for grandchildren or caring for elderly parents.

Wallace said Lauderdale County has 466 RSVP volunteers. She said the group that's 75 to 85 years old are the most active. One of her volunteers died right before his 100th birthday.

The airport is just one place where RSVP volunteers can be found. Allen said they also work at the Colbert County Courthouse, deliver Meals on Wheels, and work the Helen Keller Festival and other seasonal events.

"We also provide information for disaster preparedness and have classes that teach disaster readiness called CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)," Allen said. "CERT is done in partnership with the Emergency Management Agency in Colbert County. This program trains individuals to take care of themselves, their family, and their neighbors until professional help can arrive."

Ricks has a badge identifying himself as CERT trained. He mentioned two occasions when he noticed someone acting strangely at the airport. He notified the TSA, and Muscle Shoals police ultimately removed the individuals.

Wallace said RSVP has volunteers at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital and at Shoals Chamber of Commerce events. They also work with the Lauderdale County School System, the Lauderdale County Extension Service, and the District Attorney's Office.

Wallace said RSVP has volunteers at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital and at Shoals Chamber of Commerce events. They also work with the Lauderdale County School System, the Lauderdale County Extension Service, and the District Attorney's Office.

Work group to include local airport officials

January 11, 2017

Originally published in the Times Daily.

Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Director Barry Griffith said local airport officials have been selected to participate in a work group studying ways to improve air service to small communities.

The creation of the work group was mandated in the 2016 Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill. The group's findings will be presented to Congress this year, according to the bill.

Griffith told members of the Shoals Air Services Committee that the work group will also evaluate the Essential Air Service Program to determine if there are any changes or improvements that should be considered.

"We're very honored to be included in part of that," Griffith said.

According to the bill, members include state and local aviation officials, state governors, aviation safety experts, economic development officials and members of the traveling public from small communities.

"Representative members will explore several issues, including whether funding for airports, the Essential Air Service Program and the Small Community Air Service Development Program is sufficient," said Jenny T. Rosenberg, acting assistant secretary for Aviation and International Affairs.

The group will also look at initiatives that could support pilot training and attempt to identify obstacles to attracting and maintaining air transportation service to and from small communities.

Griffith said they would look at "whatever types of incentives or motivational items we can come up with to try and make these smaller markets, especially the ones that are not boarding a lot of folks, more effective."

The first meeting is scheduled for Jan. 25.

In a separate issue, Griffith told committee members the airport has completed the installation of another 1,200 linear feet of security fencing, and has applied for a grant to replace another 3,800 feet of fencing.

The airport is also seeking a grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Bureau to construction new hangars in the southeast quadrant. If it's awarded, the airport would have to pay for half of the $350,000 cost.

Griffith said the construction of a new private hangar on the southeast quadrant has been completed.

Committee excited about Boutique Air boardings

 April 13, 2016

Originally published in the Times Daily.

If Boutique Air continues to board as many passengers as it did in March, the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport will be in compliance with its Essential Air Service contract, which provides Boutique Air with a federal subsidy to operate in the Shoals.

The Shoals’ new commercial airline, its third in 31/2 years, boarded 440 passengers in its first full month of operation, Air Services Committee Chairman Barry Auchly told members Tuesday. Auchly also is the interim chamber director.

“That part feels pretty good,” Auchly said. “We feel like it’s only going to continue to grow.”

San Francisco-based Boutique Air began commuter air service Feb. 23 to Nashville International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The airline boarded 45 passengers from Feb. 23-29.

Auchly told committee members the airline had a 97 percent completion rate in March, and the six cancellations were weather related.

Broken down by destination, 256 passengers flew to Atlanta while 184 flew to Nashville.

Auchly said the 440 March passengers represent 14 passengers per day. According to its EAS agreement, the airport must board at least 10 passengers per day or roughly 3,600 annually to remain in compliance with the contract.

A projection based on 14 passengers per day would give the airport 5,110 passenger for the year, well above the EAS contract requirements.

“They’re starting off well and that feels pretty good,” Auchly said.

He said some of those passengers are people flying from Atlanta to Nashville via the Shoals to save money. He said it might be possible to determine how many passengers are utilizing the airline for that reason.

Billy Heatherly, assistant to Airport Director Barry Griffith, said Boutique will be issuing a new schedule for May.

He said the airline will tweak some of the flight times, but could provide no details on the changes. He said Boutique also has released a telephone number to contact local representatives. The number is 256-867-2460.

Heatherly said the airline is splitting advertising costs with the airport, which is embarking on a multi-faceted ad campaign through print media, radio, billboards and social media. Auchly said a television ad campaign with a Huntsville television station is pending.

Word of mouth is another powerful form, Auchly said, and he is asking Air Services Committee members to volunteer to speak to local civic groups and organizations to encourage them to utilize the local airport.

Boutique Air off to a good start

March 9, 2016

Originally published in the Times Daily.

Boutique Air is off to a good start, but while they’re excited, Air Services Committee members remain cautiously optimistic about the new commuter airline.

Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Director Barry Griffith said between Feb. 23 when the new airline began service and Feb. 29, 45 passengers left Muscle Shoals for Nashville and Atlanta. Boarding numbers for March will be available early next month.

Griffith said the airport must board at least 10 passengers per day to remain within the parameters of the community’s Essential Air Service agreement. The EAS program is funding the new airline through a $2,779,632 federal subsidy.

The airport had to seek a waiver from the U.S. Department of Transportation to remain in the EAS program after failing to board sufficient passengers and remain under a $200 per passenger cost during SeaPort Airlines’ short tenure in the Shoals. This was after the airport received an earlier waiver after enduring a similar situation with SeaPort’s predecessor, Silver Airways.

San Francisco-based Boutique Air is offering twice daily flights to Nashville and Atlanta and a limited weekend flight schedule. The company is utilizing a Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12 aircraft that holds eight passengers.

According to a Boutique Air report, 23 passengers flew to Atlanta while 22 flew to Nashville from Feb. 23-29.

Griffith said there were four cancellations recorded during that period, all weather related.

“They’re performing exceptionally well,” Griffith said. “We’ve had a lot of interest.”

Committee Chairman Barry Auchly asked committee members to now help spread the word about Boutique Air by speaking to local civic clubs and other organizations about the advantages of utilizing the local airport.

“I think we have something to sell,” he said.

Griffith said the airport has begun advertising the new service in print media and is exploring options for radio and billboard advertising. They also will use the airport’s Facebook page.

“They are very active in grassroots-type promotions,” Griffith said of the new airline.

He said Boutique also is splitting advertising costs.

Griffith said there has been a side benefit to the dual hub approach Boutique is utilizing.

People flying from Nashville to Altanta are opting to fly from Nashville to Muscle Shoals, then to Atlanta, rather than booking a flight from Nashville to Atlanta, he said.

“It does help our enplanements,” Griffith said.

The airport director said the return of air service to the Shoals has provided local jobs for five Transportation Security Administration employees who had been traveling from the Shoals to work at the Huntsville International Airport.

Auchly said the TSA employees will know the names of frequent fliers.

They provide the same security tasks that passengers endure at larger airports, but because of the number of passengers boarding, it does not take nearly as long, he said.

Airline will gain customers' trust through reliability

March 5, 2016

Originally published in the Times Daily.

MUSCLE SHOALS — Todd Beene flies 10 to 15 times a year and enjoys the convenience of utilizing the local airport, which is only about 10 minutes from his Tuscumbia residence.

But when the last airline to serve the Shoals became unreliable, Beene lost confidence the flights he booked would actually be available. Like many Shoals travelers, he simply started booking flights from other airports.

On Tuesday, Beene was sitting in the terminal at Northwest Alabama Regional Airport awaiting a Boutique Air flight that would ultimately take him to Fresno, California.

“I got real excited they were offering service to Atlanta from here,” Beene said. “It saves me a step of having to drive to Huntsville and fly to Atlanta. I’d rather fly out of here and go to either Atlanta or Nashville than drive to Huntsville to start my day. That’s a big deal.”

Members of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce joined airport officials last week for a low-key ribbon cutting to recognize the new airline’s arrival in the Shoals. Boutique was selected to provide commercial air service in the Shoals under the federally subsidized Essential Air Service program.

Attendees were able to climb aboard the Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12 turboprop aircraft that was parked outside the terminal.

While you must duck a bit to walk through the cabin, there is plenty of legroom once you’re seated.

Truett Davis, Boutique Air’s director of security and business development, said the pilot shortage that caused so many problems for SeaPort Air will not affect Boutique’s operation in the Shoals.

“It’s a combination of ... things — the aircraft we’re using and the way we treat our pilots and the way we pay our pilots,” Davis said.

He said the company has about 200 employees, including about 70 pilots. When he came into the business, Davis said he heard stories about how little some pilots at smaller airlines were paid, and the conditions they lived in.

“We treat people right,” he said. “We retain pilots better that way.”

He said the aircraft is a nine-seater and under a lower weight limit, “we’re allowed to fly this plane with one pilot, but we use two pilots. That allows us to hire that second pilot with lower hours. For us, we have absolutely no pilots shortage. In fact quite the opposite.”

He said the co-pilots are fully qualified to fly the aircraft and that Boutique Air has great incentives for pilots to advance to the rank of captain, which carries a higher salary. They also provide quality accommodations and a “crew car” for the pilots to use, he said.

Boutique Air has seven captains and six co-pilots working in the Shoals. The airline is in 18 cities, including 10 cities that are subsidized by the Essential Air Service program.

Davis said he was impressed with the terminal at Northwest Alabama Regional Airport.

“Of all the EAS terminals, this is by far the nicest terminal we operate in,” Davis said.

Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford said he flew to Atlanta on Boutique Air and enjoyed the flight.

“It was smooth and on time,” Bradford said. “It’s quiet. There’s lots of legroom. I like it.”

In time, Davis said Boutique will offer beverage service on its flights, and offer frequent fliers a voucher book of tickets to Nashville or Atlanta.

Airline officials hope local residents will support Boutique Air.

“We really need the community to have confidence again,” Davis said.

Beene, a member of the alt-rock band Glossary who is currently touring with Grass Valley, California, artist Chuck Ragan, said he will use the service as long as it’s reliable.

Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Welcomes Boutique Air With Ribbon Cutting Celebration

March 1, 2016

Originally published in the Quad-Cities Daily.

MUSCLE SHOALS – Boutique Air celebrates their arrival to Northwest Alabama Regional Airport with a tour of their aircraft, a ribbon cutting and an open house. Boutique Air will have flights from Muscle Shoals to Nashville and Atlanta twice daily. The day was dreary but the spirits were soaring and the celebration was a success. Boutique may your skies be fair and the wind at your back, welcome to The Shoals.

Now a little about Boutique Air by Boutique Air:

“Boutique Air is pleased to begin services in Northwest Alabama Regional Airport to and from Nashville and Atlanta. The airline was recently awarded the DOT Essential Air Service contract to provide service between Muscle Shoals and the two destinations after receiving strong support from local leadership and the broader community. “We are excited to bring Boutique Air service to the community of Muscle Shoals and the surrounding areas,” said CEO Shawn Simpson. “Our focus on customer service and reliability has resulted in strong demand for our service in other markets, and we look forward to creating the same success story here.”
Fares will start at an introductory rate of $39 from Muscle Shoals to Nashville and $59 from Muscle Shoals to Atlanta. The schedule will feature two daily round trip flights from Muscle Shoals to both Nashville and Atlanta. The schedule can be found online at Boutique Air operates a modern fleet of Swiss-made Pilatus PC12 aircraft. With amenities designed to make the flying experience as comfortable as it gets, the PC12 features reclining leather seats in an executive configuration, power outlets, a pressurized cabin, enclosed lavatory, and a top speed of 300 mph.
Boutique Air is an FAA certified air carrier providing both air charter and scheduled service. The airline currently services routes in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.”

Boutique Air takes flight in the Shoals

February 24, 2016

Originally published in the Times Daily.

MUSCLE SHOALS — With little fanfare Tuesday, Boutique Air began its first day of providing commuter air service to the Shoals.

The new airline will provide twice daily flights to Atlanta and Nashville.

Two people were working at what will be the Boutique Air ticket counter Tuesday. The airline’s logos and signs have yet to be added.

For more information on its flight schedule, go to the Boutique Air website or the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport site.

Boutique Air starts service to Nashville, Atlanta Tuesday

February 20, 2016

Originally published in the Times Daily.

MUSCLE SHOALS — Boutique Air is expected to begin flights to Nashville and Atlanta on Tuesday, but don’t expect the new service to arrive with an overabundance of fanfare.

The last two airlines that provided commuter air service to the Shoals — Silver Airways and SeaPort Airlines — arrived with much ballyhoo and left very quietly.

Airport Director Barry Griffith said he just wants the new airline to provide reliable service and passengers to purchase tickets.

“We’re excited about it,” Griffith said. “We think the dual hub flights are going to be very popular.”

Boutique Air will offer flights to Nashville International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Griffith said. There will be two daily flights to each city.

Atlanta will get the early morning flight and an early evening departure. Nashville will have a morning and early afternoon flight. There will be 24 scheduled flights each week.

Griffith said the early morning Atlanta flight should be attractive to business people.

The airline will utilize a Swiss made Pilatus PC-12 turboprop aircraft that can hold nine passengers.

Boutique Air was one of four airlines that sought the Essential Air Service Program contract to operate commercial air service in the Shoals. The U.S. Department of Transportation approved the airline’s $2,779,632 subsidy.

Griffith said Boutique Air flight will run $49 one way to Nashville and $59 one way to Atlanta.

Flights can be booked through or through travel websites such as Travelocity or Orbitz.

Griffith said he’s been receiving three or four calls per day from people wondering about the new airline’s status.

“That’s a good thing that there’s a lot of interest,” he said.

Boutique Air selection approved by U.S. Department of Transportation

December 12, 2015

Originally published in the Times Daily.

The U.S. Department of Transportation approved the selection of Boutique Air to provide commuter air service to the Shoals under the Essential Air Service program.

The San Francisco-based airline was chosen by a local committee to replace SeaPort Airlines, which terminated service in the Shoals in October.

The Transportation Department’s order was issued Friday, Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford said.

The airline will provide 24 round trips per week to Nashville International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. There will be two trips to each city Monday-Friday and one flight to each city on the weekend.

The airline will utilize an 8-passenger Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

Airport Director Barry Griffith said the new service could begin as early as February.

“New airline service normally takes 60 to 90 days once the Department of Transportation service order is received by the selected airline,” Griffith said.

According to the order, the airline’s contract begins Feb. 1, and ends Feb. 28, 2018.

“We tried to push it up a little bit,” Bradford said.

Bradford said he hopes the airline can begin flights in February or March.

The annual subsidy rate is $2,779,632, according to the order.

Boutique Air CEO Shawn Simpson said he is excited about starting new airline service from Muscle Shoals and grateful the communities of northwest Alabama selected Boutique Air as their hometown airline.

The order noted Bradford sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation on behalf of Boutique Air.

“The service level for both the Atlanta and Nashville markets best coincides with the passenger demand from Muscle Shoals and is the optimal service pattern for our area,” Bradford said. “Muscle Shoals is also confident that frequent service to Atlanta and Nashville at the modest subsidy level will generate traffic well in excess of the 10 enplanement per day requirements and also at the $200 subsidy per passenger.”

The airport has been under fire for failing to remain at or under the subsidy cap or the EAS contract requirement to board at least 10 passengers per day.

According to the order, the per passenger subsidy during SeaPort’s tenure at the airport was $821 per passenger.

The department did, however, acknowledge the airport was impacted by SeaPort’s poor service.

“Nevertheless, the department fully expects the community and Boutique Air to continue to work together to ensure the subsidy per passenger is below $200 to remain eligible for EAS,” the order stated.

The order indicated other EAS communities served by Boutique Air generally are pleased with the carrier’s quality of service.

“After two unsuccessful attempts, we are clearly aware of the hard work which lies ahead,” Airport board member and Shoals Chamber Air Services Chairman Barry Auchly said. “Our new year’s resolution is to convince the traveling public that this is a new day in air service from the Shoals.”

Griffith said the dual hub approach presented by Boutique Air was the deciding factor in selecting the airline.

A committee that included Griffith, members of the airport authority, Shoals Air Services Committee and Bradford reviewed proposals from four airlines before making a decision.

“We know many of our local customers are flying out of other airports, and our goal is to offer a more affordable and a more convenient option,” Airport Board Chairman Rick Elliott said. “Boutique Air will offer two daily flights to Atlanta and two daily flights to Nashville with fares as low as $49. So far Boutique Air has been very successful in every market where they have DOT contracts.”

Airport gets new air carrier – Daily service to Atlanta and Nashville

December 11, 2015

Originally published in the Quad-Cities Daily.

THE SHOALS – Airport Director, Barry Griffith announced late this afternoon that the Federal Department of Transportation has awarded San Francisco-based Boutique Air, the contract to provide scheduled service from North Alabama Regional Airport. Service is likely to begin mid-February, 2016.

“We are dealing with a different air carrier this time,” says Griffith, “Boutique Air has a high level of expertise in operating from small regional airports, as well as providing charter air service.” The airline was founded in 2007. It operated its first scheduled service in 2013, and has been operating under the DOT’s “Essential Air Service” program since 2014.

Griffith says that Boutique plans to offer something really special for Shoals fliers. The company intends to operate 2 flights each weekday to Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport, and 2 flights each weekday to Nashville. Griffith told the Quad-Cities Daily that the airline is excited about coming to the Shoals, and they believe that providing service to these 2 major airports is the key to a successful business model. On Saturday and Sunday, the plans are for a single flight-and-return each day to each city.

Boutique Air has committed to using Pilatus PC-12, single turboprop-powered aircraft. The company says these birds are beautiful, fast and very safe. The Pilatus PC-12 is a product of Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. The company, founded in 1939, has built more than 1,200 PC-12 aircraft since the first model’s introduction in 1994. Recognized for its world-class engineering and safety ratings, the PC-12 continues to be a very popular choice with charter and scheduled air carriers.

In describing the Pilatus PC-12, they say, “Our aircraft have amenities designed to make the flying experience as comfortable as it gets, including leather seats, power outlets, and an enclosed lavatory. Second in comfort only to your living room. In addition to the quiet design to the PC-12 out of the factory, Boutique Air added custom soundproofing to its aircraft cabin, making it one of the most quiet cabins you can fly in. Avoid the loud noises of commercial aircraft, arrive at your destination well-rested.”

Readers may visit the Boutique Air website by clicking HERE.

Boutique Air Selected By Northwest Alabama Regional Airport To Provide Essential Air Service

December 2, 2015

Originally published in the The Quad-Cities Daily.

The Northwest Alabama Regional Airport (MSL) has selected Boutique Air to provide essential air service from Muscle Shoals to Atlanta and Nashville. Boutique Air will provide 24 round trip flights a week. Two flights a day will go from Muscle Shoals to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and two flights a day will go to Nashville International Airport (BNA). The dual hub market approach presented by Boutique Air CEO Shawn Simpson was the deciding factor for the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Authority Board members. Airport Director – Barry Griffith said that this was the best proposal out of the four (4) airlines that bid for service. By having the Atlanta connection passengers can connect to over 1200 flights per day to anywhere in the world. Businessman and Board Member Joe McKinney said that this is great news for the business traveler who can leave MSL in the morning and return later that evening. For the leisure traveler Nashville is a destination market that serves over 50 markets with 390 flights a day with both Southwest and Jet Blue Airlines as low cost carriers. Boutique Air is already located in the Nashville International Airport and is servicing Greenville, Mississippi with two flights a day.

Sub-committee members who made the recommendation to the Airport Board consisted of Mayor David Bradford, Steve Holt, President, Chamber of Commerce, Barry Auchly, Chairman, Air Services Committee and Airport Board Member, Rick Elliott, Chairman, Airport Authority and Joe McKinney, Local Business Owner and Airport Board Member. Mayor David Bradford submitted a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) giving Boutique Air the community endorsement for the new service.

We have had some setbacks with our previous two airlines that were unable to provide reliable air service due to poor management and a lack of qualified pilots said Rick Elliott – Chairman of the Airport Authority. We have a made a step in the right direction with Boutique Air said the Chairman. Mayor David Bradford stated that the new service will be beneficial to the entire community, and we plan to make everyone aware of the advantages of having this new service. The Mayor said after having had the opportunity to take a short flight in the new aircraft, I found it to be very comfortable and very quiet. You can actually have a conversation with your fellow passengers.

Boutique Air will operate a modern fleet of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. The PC-12 is a Swedish made aircraft and has an excellent safety rating. All flights are flown by Captains with over 1200 hours of flight experience and an instrument rating. Pilatus aircraft are certified to fly with single pilots but Boutique Air opts to fly with a two member crew. The aircraft will have an 8 Passenger Executive Configuration or a 9 Passenger Commuter Configuration. It has a pressurized cabin, power outlets and an enclosed lavatory. Flight time from MSL to ATL is projected at 46 minutes and flight time between MSL and BNA is projected at 26 minutes. The pressurized cabin can fly at 25,000 feet allowing it to fly above most bad weather. Boutique Air has pilots that are highly experienced and hold the most advanced FAA ratings, a key reason for perfect safety record by the company.

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, Boutique Air has been in operation since 2007. Boutique began flying fire surveillance missions for the U.S. Forestry Service and Bureau of Land Management. They later evolved to provide air charter services from the Burbank, Hawthorne, Las Vegas and Redding airports. In 2012, Boutique Air applied for commuter operating authority from the DOT and received authority to provide scheduled air carrier service in 2013. Boutique Air has connections in place with all of the major Global Distribution Systems (GDSs), which travel agents use to access the market. You will find Boutique Air on Worldspan and Apollos (Travelport), Sabre and Amadeus reservation systems. In addition, they are on all major Online Travel Agencies (OTA), including Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Orbitz, CheapTickets, and CheapOAir.

Boutiques provides Essential Air Service (EAS) in the following communities: Clovis (CVN), Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Silver City (SVC), Albuquerque (ABQ), Carlsbad (CNM), Alliance (AIA), Denver (DEN), Chadron (CDR), Show Low (SOW), Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX), Merced (MCE), Los Angeles Int’l (LAX), Oakland Int’l (OAK), Las Vegas Int’l (LAS), Los Alamos (LAM), Greenville (GLH) and Nashville Int’l (BNA). More company information can found at

The PC-12 Pilatus aircraft is a very fuel efficient aircraft that has over a 1200 Nautical Mile Range. Passengers will experience luxurious travel accommodations normally reserved for private business executives who often use the same type of aircraft for their corporate travel arrangements. Some of the other proposals offered aircraft with twin engines such as Corporate Flight Management (CFM). CFM proposed using the Jetstream 31, a British Aerospace aircraft that is over 20 years and is configured to have 19 seats. Under the traditional EAS program, CFM will be required to reconfigure the aircraft to fly with only 9 seats. CFM was selected to provide EAS in Tupelo and will offer 30 round trip flights a week or 5 flights a day to Nashville only. The other airline proposals were from Air Choice One a Saint Louis based company and Sun Air dba Southern Airways a Memphis based company. Air Choice one offered three flights a day (2 to Nashville and 1 to Saint Louis) and Sun Air offered four flights a day (2 to Atlanta and 2 to Memphis).

Simpson said that during the 60 to 90 days the company will need to get ready for service, it must set the flight schedule and get pilots in place. It is very important that we use this time for marketing the airline and getting the word out to the community. You really need the startup time to let the communities know about the service and educate them of what we have to offer. We anticipate having some very low introductory fares to help generate interest in flying out of the Shoals once again. Our goal is to provide reliable, economical and safe travel options to the North Alabama region.

DOT officials have indicated that it is possible that the order for Boutique to start air service at Muscle Shoals may possibly go out in late December as they are aware that the communities are anxious to get the service started, but it might be delayed until mid-January. Airport officials are hopeful that the new air service can begin as early as February 1, 2016.

Airport gets a makeover

July 9, 2013

Originally published in the Times Daily.

If you haven’t been to Northwest Alabama Regional Airport recently, you have missed the initial stages of a face-lift at the terminal.

The building is in a state of transition with metal wall studs exposed in places, covered by clear plastic in others.

Much of the building is already covered with new wall board, which will eventually be covered with a new exterior finish.

The work is part of a multimillion dollar renovation project that will not only enhance the appearance of the facility, but alleviate water problems and make the building more energy efficient.

“The airport renovation and rehabilitation project is intended to elevate the reputation of the facility from a place where some travelers try to avoid to one they wish to utilize due to convenience,” Airport Director Barry Griffith said. “The last upgrade occurred in 1993 and since that time, the building had begun to show signs of deterioration in certain areas.”

The project will improve the energy efficiency of the building, which also houses Shoals Flight Center and the Silver Airways ticket counter.

In addition to improving passenger comfort, Griffith said, it will provide a sustainable exterior building structure that will alleviate moisture problems.

“This project will include an entirely new wall system composed of new exterior cladding, new wall and roof air and moisture barriers, new wall and roof insulation, a new roofing system and new interior wall finishes,” Griffith said. “New entrance canopies and signage will accent this new, high-tech exterior facade.”

He said the project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

H&N Contractors is the general contractor for the project. The company submitted the low bid of $1,035,000, Griffith said.

Griffith said the project is ahead of schedule and under budget.

“We are thrilled to be part of this important project for the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Authority,” said Mike Holbrook, project management director at Fuqua & Partners Architects. “The airline terminal building will get a sleek new skin and be fitted with a high-tech energy envelope, perhaps the first of its kind in the private sector in north Alabama. This renovation should provide a low-maintenance exterior and comfortable interior environment for many years to come.”

With the exterior walls being removed, temporary walls must be in place inside the terminal.

The U.S. Department of Energy describes the “building envelope” as a building’s foundation, walls, roof, windows and doors. A building controls the flow of energy between the interior and exterior of the building. A well designed envelope allows the building to provide comfort for the occupants and respond efficiently to heating, cooling, ventilating and natural lighting needs, according to the Energy Department.

Energy efficient

Griffith said the improvements to the terminal will make the building more energy efficient, which should lead to lower utility costs.

The renovations required the relocation of the Silver Airways ticket counter to the area formerly occupied by airport management, which is in the center of the terminal building. Shoals Flight Center has been temporarily relocated to a modular building in the north parking lot.

Silver Airways began service in the Shoals about a year ago and has experienced a bumpy ride so far.

Airline boardings that initially dipped have been steadily increasing, but Griffith said they are still about 40 percent less than the airport’s best year.

Two travelers sat outside the terminal one day last week waiting for an outbound flight that was delayed due to severe weather in Altanta.

Prem Bindraban, who was visiting the International Fertilizer Development Center, said the construction did not disrupt his flight.

“I’m sitting outside because I don’t like the air conditioning,” he said.

He and his traveling companion, Antyama Massada, said the airport should consider marketing the Shoals area to entice people to use the new air carrier.

Bindraban said only three people were on the flight into Muscle Shoals.

To put people in the planes, Massada suggested that the airline or the local airport authority advertise more and target Atlanta to entice people to visit the Shoals with travel packages for events like the W.C. Handy Music Festival or to fish or play golf.


Members of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce’s Air Services Committee have discussed at length ways to market the airport and the new air service, including marketing to areas around the Shoals, but held off on implementing a marketing campaign while Silver Airways tweaked its online reservation system.

“We’ve taken a cautious approach in implementing parts of the marketing plan,” Griffith said.

Griffith said the airport has been marketing local air service in various publications.

Mike Reiter, project manager for the airport’s aviation consultant, the Michael Baker Corp., said the project will provide a fresh new look to the airport terminal as it continues to perform as the transportation gateway to the Shoals.

The cost of the renovations is being covered by the entitlement funding the airport receives from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Griffith said the airport board has agreed to allocate FAA money to the project for the next four years.

“Passengers will soon be able to enjoy a modern, hassle-free airport in the Shoals area that offers twice-a-day service to Atlanta at an affordable price,” Griffith said.

Silver Airways begins service to the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport on Monday, October 1

September 25, 2012

MUSCLE SHOALS — On the first Monday in October, a 34-passenger Saab aircraft will arrive at the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport to be greeted by a plume of water from two fire trucks, a traditional welcome salute for the maiden flight for a new carrier.

The celebration marks the beginning of air service between Muscle Shoals and Atlanta by Silver Airways, an air carrier based out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida that serves destinations throughout the eastern United States and the Bahamas.

“We wanted to greet the arrival of the first Silver Airways flight with a traditional ceremony,” explained Barry Griffith, Director of the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport. “Water cannons are used to celebrate maiden flights, and can also be used to mark a captain’s retirement or some other significant event. Having Silver Airways as our carrier is significant to our region, and we are excited to be able to welcome them here.”

Silver Airways replaces Delta service, which had been offering flights between Muscle Shoals and Memphis. “We’re also glad to be flying back to Atlanta, with two incoming and two outbound flights a day,” said Griffith. “Our travelers appear to favor Atlanta because of the ease of connection there, and we anticipate an increase in boardings because of the new service and our new destination.”

The Silver Airways aircrafts are Saab 340s, with fuel-efficient jet turbine engines. The planes seat 34, and service will include a flight attendant on board. The planes will travel at 300+ miles per hour.

On weekdays, Silver Airways will offer a 9:15 morning departure for Atlanta, and a 5:15 afternoon departure. On Saturday, Silver’s plan is to offer a 12:00 noon departure, and on Sunday, travelers can leave for Atlanta at 4:35 p.m.

“In addition to great service from a great company, our air fares are competitive,” said Griffith. “The fact that our parking charges are so low and you don’t have to spend an hour or more on the highway to get to another airport means that we represent a serious and cost-effective traveling option. We hope the traveling public will seriously consider Flying the Shoals.”

After the first flight arrives, a delegation of Shoals area politicians and business leaders will board the plane for the first outbound flight to Atlanta, where they will meet with Silver Airways officials.

The public is invited to view the water cannon salute on Monday, October 1. It is recommended that viewers arrive at 8:30 a.m.; the flight is scheduled to arrive at 8:55.