Branson's Private Commercial Airport Goes Live

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An interesting development in U.S. aviation became a practical exercise on Monday as Branson Airport welcomed its first commercial flight. Minneapolis-based Sun Country Airlines became the first customer of the first entirely privately funded commercial airport in the U.S. The 737 offloaded a planeload of Minnesotans intent on sampling the entertainment and bright lights of the entertainment capital of Missouri. As they head off to the Ozarks Spring Fiddle Convention and Bluegrass Jam Session, among other attractions, the $155 million airport is geared up to handle more of the same in a purpose-built facility aimed at processing vacation-goers as efficiently -- and profitably -- as possible. "The arrival of this flight marks a new beginning for air travel in the Ozarks," said Steve Peet, CEO, Branson Airport. "The vision we've had for so many years of providing low-cost air travel to and from Branson, is today a reality." AirTran also initiated its service, landing a couple of hours after Sun Country. Before the airliner touched down, however, there was plenty of action at the airport.

Under the direction of airshow manager Bobbi Thompson, the first Branson Air Show attracted more than 50,000 people over two days on the weekend. Patty Wagstaff, Team Aeroshell, the USAF Thunderbirds and the debut of the Canadian Forces Century Hornet F-18 demo highlighted the show. Branson offers airlines 7,140 feet of mountaintop runway and a sparkling 58,000-square-foot terminal where all employees work for the airport, rather than the airlines.