Airport to host first 737, vets to return tonight
It’s not every day that a 120-passenger jet flies in and out of South Alabama Regional Airport, so today’s Covington Regional Honor Flight has required special preparations.
The group is taking 115 World War II and Korean veterans, guardians and medical staff members to Washington, D.C., where they will visit war memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.
The flight will leave Andalusia at 7 a.m. today, Sat., May 15, and fly directly to Dulles International in Washington, D.C., where the group will board chartered buses to travel to their destinations.
In Andalusia, two large hangars, which formerly housed EJM and located on the far side of the airport, are being used to accommodate the passengers, and those who’ll welcome them home.
“We’ve set up a ‘Heroes Welcome Area’ for guests and the media,” airport co-manager Jed Blackwell said. “The second hangar will be a security screening area.”
TSA has sent 10 screeners to Andalusia to set up boarding operations for this morning’s departure, he said. Veterans and their guardians were advised that while they’re boarding with friends and family members, that they would have to follow traditional airport security measures and will still have to shed their shoes and be scanned with a metal detector before they climb aboard the waiting 737.
Blackwell said the airport will have extra people on duty this morning, shuttling passengers from their vehicles via golf cart and van. The sheriff’s department will assist with security, and Sheriff Dennis Meeks will be among those making the trip.
Area residents are being encouraged to be at the airport to give the area’s war heroes a send-off at 7 a.m., and to welcome them back at about 7:30 p.m. tonight. Gates will open at 6 p.m. for visitors.