Larger aircraft to fly in to Southwest Georgia Regional Airport

Apr. 29—ALBANY — For those not fluent in aviation lingo, the difference in a CRJ-200 airplane and a CRJ-700 or CRJ-900 is nothing more than numbers.

But for passengers flying out of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport here, those numbers mean a big difference in comfort and reliability.

Instead of the smaller CRJ-200 Delta flights that take off from the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, starting Monday the flights will be on CRJ-700 or CRJ-900 aircraft.

"That's going to mean as many as 20 more seats per flight and an option to fly first-class," Dr. Frank Middleton, chairman of Albany's Aviation Board of Directors, said. "It's an opportunity to fly in a more comfortable and more reliable aircraft."

According to Delta, which has flights into and out of Albany to and from Atlanta's Jackson/Hartsfield International Airport, the world's busiest, passengers will have more space and can expect a more reliable plane when flying in and out of the Good Life City. Numbers released by the airline show that the new jets flying into Albany will offer 69 (for the CRJ-700) and 76 (CRJ-900) total seats, where the CRJ-200 had 50. Those seats on the two larger planes offer 9 and 12 first-class seats, respectively.

With the additional seating these aircraft offer, Delta also plans to adjust the schedule of departures at the Albany-based airport. Beginning Monday, instead of three departures at 7:52 a.m., 12:51 p.m., and 5:05 p.m., Delta planes will depart at 7:45 a.m. and 5:05 p.m.

The larger aircraft and new schedule are elements of a renaissance of sorts at the local airport. The facility recently completed construction of four massive 12,000-square-foot private hangars and has begun construction on commercial hangars, projects with price tags totaling slightly more than $16 million. A waiting list has evolved for the private hangars.

"These, as you can see, are huge," said Ann Slocumb, the general manager of Eagles of America, the fixed-base operations manager of the airport. "They are large enough for the largest private jets, the Gulfstream 550. We didn't know what the interest would be for the hangars, but we've got a pretty significant waiting list already for when we get ready to lease them.

"People are excited to see what we have going on here. There are people who have planes at other facilities that want to move here, and we have air schools out of Florida asking if they can base their operations here. We're fortunate to have people like Dr. Middleton on our Aviation Board; he's a great advocate for this airport."

Middleton, who noted that the ongoing projects at the airport have been "on the Aviation Board's wish list for years," said the 12,000-square-foot hangars will allow aircraft owners to protect their investment.

"These are big enough to hold four or five smaller planes," he said. "If you have the kind of investment it takes to own an airplane, you want to protect that investment. Hail like we had the other day could cause significant damage."

Funding for the projects at the airport came from local SPLOST and T-SPLOST funds as well as funds allocated by the state and federal governments to cover COVID operation losses.

"We sought, and got, permission to use some of that funding on these projects," Middleton said.

As an end-of-year projected finish date for the hangars currently under construction moves forward, Middleton said there are other projects on the horizon. He points to a recent report by the Georgia Department of Transportation that recommends significant funding for improvements at the Albany airport.

"We're already the second-largest cargo carrier in the state behind Atlanta," he said. "The DOT recently completed their report that said, in part, 'The total investment needed to address expansion at Albany is estimated at $30.3 million.'

"There are more good things to come out here."