Southern Airways’ recent decision to begin offering scheduled charter flights out of DeKalb Peachtree Airport surprised a lot of people, including Airport Director Mike Van Wie.
“Twenty days ago I would have bet this couldn’t happen here,” Van Wie said.
DeKalb Peachtree Airport, known as PDK, is available for use by commuter planes and small, on-demand charter flights – not commercial airlines.
But Van Wie said Southern Airways is able to operate out of PDK under an obscure Federal Aviation Administration definition for public charters known as Part 380. Essentially, he said, a company called Southern Airways Express handles marketing, scheduling and financial transactions, which is allowed under Part 380. That company then contracts with its subsidiary Southern Airways Charter, a Part 135 operator, to offer the flights.
Van Wie said he was surprised by the company’s proposal. After more than 30 years in the airport business, he had never heard of a scheduled charter operation before.
“I can’t believe somebody researched the rules that well to figure out how to do this. But I guess there’s a businessman for everything,” Van Wie said.
Beginning Sept. 9, Southern Airways will offer flights out of PDK to six cities, including Destin, Fla. Memphis, Tenn. and Oxford, Miss.
Some residents of nearby neighborhoods are upset by the move.
“The idea of scheduled service out of this airport has always been a very contentious thing with the neighborhoods around here,” Van Wie said. “People say, ‘why did you approve it?’ I didn’t approve it. I didn’t have a legal basis to say no.”
But not all of the calls Van Wie has been receiving are negative.
Van Wie said many people have called him asking for the company’s web address.
“I think people want to know how they can get to Destin,” Van Wie said.