After six months of preparation, the first SkyWest flight out of North Central West Virginia Regional Airport took passengers to Chicago last week.
Airport Director Rick Rock hopes the flight to O’Hare International Airport marks the beginning of what will be endless opportunities for the region.
“It’s up to our imagination. We want to increase thinking, to say with this, ‘We can do this,’” Rock said. “The airport always wants to be a leader in the region to bring everyone together and on the same page and work together and create opportunities for fellow West Virginians.”
The SkyWest service at NCWV Airport will allow travelers to catch flights closer to home, rather than having to drive to Charleston or Pittsburgh and other airports outside the region.
“We want to provide all the amenities of larger airports in North Central West Virginia,” Rock said. “If we can make it easier — instead of driving to airports miles away and giving them their business, if they can come right here and experience all they would get in a larger area.”
Offering the SkyWest flights will contribute economically to the region, Rock said.
“The people from here, who would maybe only come back to visit once or twice a year, probably we can get them four or five times or more,” Rock said. “We want all the opportunities in the region and to bring people back. “
“There’s a lot of jobs there and we’re having trouble finding people to work. This is a way to get people to come into West Virginia and see what’s going on and continue to improve upon West Virginia,” he said.
NCWV Airport’s collaboration with SkyWest, flying under the United Express designation, is important because it’s an airline “with a history of success,” Rock added.
“They have all the resources we need that we’ve never had in a daily service carrier before,” he said.
Instead of the turboprop planes the airport usually sees, SkyWest will be flying jets into and out of the facility. On Wednesday’s initial flight, there were about 40 people on the 50-seat plane.
Harrison County Commission President Ron Watson, who’s also president of the Benedum Airport Authority, called Wednesday’s flight a historic event.
“The inaugural flight is to Chicago, and then we’ll have a full range of flights available not only to Chicago but also to Dulles Washington International Airport,” Watson said. “Prior to this we had a meeting of county commissioners from Preston, Taylor, Monongalia and legislative people. We feel this is their airport. It may be located here in Harrison County, but it really belongs to the community.”
SkyWest’s service to Chicago and Dulles will connect North Central West Virginia residents to hundreds of other flights, both nationally and internationally, providing a convenient way to connect with the world.
“We hope people will really take advantage of the opportunity here,” Watson said.
Ashley Butler, a Buckhannon resident, said she was happy to be on the first flight to Chicago.
“I’ve never been before,” Butler said. “It was such a smooth flight, and we got there really quickly. I was excited to enjoy the deep-dish pizza.”
Butler said that in the future, she’ll be more likely to look at NCWV Airport as an option for flying.
“Bridgeport is so much closer than Pittsburgh or Charleston,” she said. “This gives a lot more opportunities for companies, too. I’m just so excited for something like this to be in West Virginia.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.flyckb.com.