Thursday, June 22, 2017

Commercial jet service returning to Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport (KSBY)

Piedmont Airlines is bringing back commercial jet service to the Salisbury airport, a milestone the carrier's president hopes will mark the first of several upgrades at the 73-year-old facility.

The American Airlines subsidiary expects to begin transitioning from Dash 8-100 and 8-300 turboprop airplanes to Embraer-145 jets in August at the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport, Lyle Hogg said.

Initially, Piedmont's schedule will include just one jet flight out of Salisbury per day, likely the early morning service to Philadelphia, he said. The remaining flights should be given over to the faster, smoother jets by the end of 2018.

Piedmont is about at the halfway point with replacing its overall fleet of 46 aircraft from turboprops to jets. Many of the airplanes needed to be replaced because they were reaching the end of their life cycle, but another major motivation for the switch was improving the flyer experience, Hogg said.

"They seem to like the jet aircraft better," he said. "They vibrate less and they're quieter inside. They just equate it with a newer technology."

Commercial jet service was last available at the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport in January 2013, when Allegiant Air halted its weekly flights to Orlando. That service had lasted just less than a year.

Hogg announced the return of jet service at a gathering Thursday of local industry executives and political leaders. He also used the event, sponsored by Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development, to call on officials to modernize the airport that has served as Piedmont's headquarters since 1975.

The airport has "tremendous potential" to attract and retain employers, he said, but a "lack of investment" through the years has impeded the region's growth. He ticked off a list of what he sees as the facility's top three priorities: extending the main runway, obtaining city water service and handing off the responsibility for providing emergency services to the county.

“Now is the time we need to move on some of these initiatives," Hogg said.

Piedmont operates 270 flights a day to 58 airports, mostly along the East Coast.

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