KINGMAN - Brenda Chastain received dozens of phone calls Friday about the most flight activity people had seen at Kingman Airport in a long time.
The U.S. Navy is using the airport for pilot training, performing touch-and-go landings on the airport's 6,800-foot runway that was built during World War II.
"I think it's wonderful," said Chastain, director of corporate administration. "When you hear them go over, you think, hey, it's a real airport and they're serving our country."
The T-6B Texan II trainer aircraft are based out of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Kingman Airport will be the primary take-off and landing practice area, said David French, executive director for Kingman Airport Authority. They'll also use airports in Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City.
Training for about 100 to 150 military personnel and contractors will continue for three months.
"This type of operation hasn't taken place at Kingman Airport since World War II and I think we should feel very fortunate to have the military return to our airport to train and prepare our Navy's future pilots," French said.
Residents around the airport can expect to see bustling activity during January, February and March, including multiple take-offs and landings throughout the day.
The airport also has three U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters and three Chinooks, with 25 more on the way for refueling.
"This place is way busier than O'Hare (Chicago) right now," French said.
With the relocation of Aero-Flite to Spokane, Wash., and proposed termination of subsidized commercial passenger service, Kingman Airport is losing a significant amount of its essential air traffic.
The U.S. Department of Transportation plans to terminate commercial service from Kingman on April 30.
Great Lakes Airlines, which flew to Los Angeles and Denver from Kingman, lost a number of co-pilots who lacked the 1,500 flying hours mandated by the FAA in 2013.
That resulted in 320 cancellations, or 25 percent of scheduled flights, throughout the system due to "no crew."
Great Lakes had to remove 10 of the 19 seats in its aircraft to allow lower-time pilot crews to fly under the 10-seat rules. Kingman was left with less than four seats to fill, making it impossible to meet 10 enplanements, or boardings, per day.
As a growing community with a significant industrial and manufacturing base at Kingman Airport, local air service will become an increasing priority, Kingman Mayor Richard Anderson said.
"This ever-growing cloud of uncertainty of the availability of air service adversely influences customer choices and participation," Anderson wrote in a Dec. 14 letter to the Department of Transportation.
He urged the DOT deputy assistant director to reconsider any potential termination of service, and to help work through "conflicting and diametric policies" that seem to result in unintended consequences for struggling economies.
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