04/01/05 — Airline service returns to Kinston

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Airline service returns to Kinston

By Turner Walston
Published in News on April 1, 2005 1:48 PM

KINSTON -- "This is no April Fool's. This is reality," said Ralph Clark, the Kinston city manager, as officials celebrated the inaugural passenger flight out of the Kinston Regional Jetport early today.

Delta carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines began service with a 6:40 a.m. flight, the first since passenger service at the airport shut down five years ago.

The 40-seat Bombardier CRJ carried 34 passengers as it took off for Atlanta.

Mary Ellison Turner of Kinston was one of the 34 passengers on board for the maiden flight. She planned to connect to another flight to Seattle, where she will visit her twin grandchildren.

Mrs. Turner said she had planned to make the trip earlier this month, but changed her mind when she learned that service from Kinston would begin this month.

She said that she and her husband visit the West Coast several times a year and have been flying out of the Raleigh-Durham Airport. The availability of passenger service so close to home made the preparations much easier, she said. She said the free parking at the Kinston terminal was another bonus.

"It was such a hassle to park and pay," she said, referring to RDU. "You had to leave at least four hours before your flight. Now, I'm just five minutes from the airport."

Mrs. Turner said she now plans to see a lot more of her grandchildren.

"We've already booked twelve flights," she said.

Kinston Mayor Johnnie Mosely was present for the early-morning celebration.

"This is the greatest day of this century for eastern North Carolina," Mosely said. "Our citizens are excited. This enhances the opportunities for us as a region to be productive for a long time in our future."

Mosely called jet service "a great step forward" for Lenoir and surrounding counties.

"With today's global market, our county is not alone," Mosely said. "It takes a regional effort to make a venture such as this a success."

In welcoming Delta to Lenoir County, Interim County Manager Reggie Lee quoted L. Welch Pogue, a civil aviation pioneer: "The 'ocean of the air' laps at the border of every state, city, town and home throughout the world."

"You are virtually one flight connection away to just over 1,000 flights a day to 200 destinations domestically and internationally," said Sam Watts, the Vice President of Atlantic Southeast Airlines.

Kinston residents Dennis Sutton and Timmy Burton said they got up early just to witness the first flight before going to work.

"I'm just proud to see Kinston make this kind of move," Sutton said.

"Just seeing the jet take off, the sky's the limit from here," Burton added.

Atlantic Southeast will offer three flights daily from Kinston to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Departures are at 6:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 5:45 p.m. For information, people can visit jetkinston.com online or call 252-522-4929.