Northwest Alabama Regional Airport

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Northwest Alabama Regional Airport
Northwest Alabama Regional Airport.jpg
NAIP aerial image, 2006
Airport type Public
Owner Colbert & Lauderdale Counties
Serves Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Elevation AMSL 551 ft / 168 m
Coordinates 34°44′43″N 087°36′37″W / 34.74528°N 87.61028°W / 34.74528; -87.61028Coordinates: 34°44′43″N 087°36′37″W / 34.74528°N 87.61028°W / 34.74528; -87.61028
MSL is located in Alabama
Location of airport in Alabama
Direction Length Surface
ft m
11/29 6,694 2,040 Asphalt
18/36 4,000 1,219 Asphalt
Statistics (2011)
Aircraft operations 44,490
Based aircraft 57

Northwest Alabama Regional Airport (IATA: MSL[2]ICAO: KMSLFAA LID: MSL) is a public-use airport in Colbert County, Alabama, United States. It located one nautical mile (2 km) east of the central business district of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The airport is owned by the counties of Colbert and Lauderdale.[1] It is mostly used for general aviation, but is also served by one commercial airline subsidized by the Essential Air Service program at a cost of $2,603,365 (per-year).[3]

As per the Federal Aviation Administration, this airport had 5,061 passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2008,[4] 6,897 in 2009, and 8,680 in 2010.[5] The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015 categorized it as a non-primary commercial service airport.[6]



The airport was opened in February 1940, however in 1942 it was taken over by the United States Army Air Forces as a World War II pilot training military airfield. It was assigned to the AAF Flying Training Command, Southeast Training Center (later Eastern Flying Training Command) as a basic (stage 2) pilot training airfield.

Instruction at the school consisted of teaching the cadets to fly in formation, fly by instruments or by aerial navigation, fly at night, and fly for long distances. Aviation Cadets who washed out of pilot training were usually sent to navigator or bombardier school. The initial aircraft complement numbered 24 Vultee BT-13 Valiant and BT-15 aircraft. The ten-week course consisted of 70 hours of flight training and 150 hours of ground training.

Pilot training at the airfield apparently ended on May 30, 1944, with the drawdown of AAFTC's pilot training program. The airfield was returned to civil control at the end of the war.


Former airport logo

Prior to summer 2009, Muscle Shoals was served from Northwest Airlines' hub in Memphis via Northwest Airlink turboprop service operated by Mesaba Airlines. After Northwest was acquired by Delta Airlines, service was transferred to Delta's larger hub in Atlanta. This has seen increased passenger numbers and less market leakage to nearby Huntsville Airport. Despite the increase in enplanements, on November 23, 2010, Delta announced that it would not re-apply for the Essential Air Service subsidy to provide service between Muscle Shoals and Memphis. The cited reason was the retirement of partner Mesaba's Saab 340 turboprop fleet. Under federal law, Delta Connection must continue service to Muscle Shoals until a replacement carrier is found.[7] In 2011, Air Choice One, a Missouri-based carrier, submitted a proposal to the US DOT to serve Muscle Shoals with flights to either Atlanta, Nashville or Memphis. Pending acceptance of the proposal, the airline was planning to begin flights in as little as 30 days.[8] However, this airline never commenced service to Muscle Shoals.

Historically, Muscle Shoals was served by Southern Airways which operated Douglas DC-9-10 and DC-9-30 jetliners on nonstop and direct flights to Atlanta. Many of these jet flights to Atlanta made an intermediate stop in Huntsville. The airline also flew Martin 4-0-4 twin prop airliners to Memphis. Southern then merged with North Central Airlines to form Republic Airlines which continued to serve Muscle Shoals with Douglas DC-9-50 jetliner service to Atlanta as well as with Convair 580 and Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner turboprop service to Memphis. Republic was then acquired by Northwest Airlines which ceased jet service to Atlanta but initiated Northwest Airlink service to Memphis which was flown with British Aerospace (BAe) Jetstream 31 turboprops. Northwest Airlink then replaced the Jetstream aircraft with larger Saab 340 turboprops and continued to operate flights to Memphis before all service on this route was finally halted.

Beginning in October 2012, Muscle Shoals was served by Silver Airways with two daily flights to Atlanta. Due to constant delays and cancellations, ridership declined to about 3 passengers per day under Silver, below EAS guidelines. Silver discontinued service to Muscle Shoals in October 2014. SeaPort Airlines is scheduled to take Silver's place in the Fall,[9] but no flights are scheduled as of October 2014.

Facilities and aircraft[edit]

Northwest Alabama Regional Airport covers an area of 640 acres (259 ha) at an elevation of 551 feet (168 m) above mean sea level. It has two asphalt paved runways: 11/29 is 6,694 by 150 feet (2,040 x 46 m) and 18/36 is 4,000 by 100 feet (1,219 x 30 m).[1]

For the 12-month period ending November 30, 2011, the airport had 44,490 aircraft operations, an average of 121 per day: 94% general aviation, 3% military, 2% scheduled commercial, and 1% air taxi. At that time there were 57 aircraft based at this airport: 56% single-engine, 25% multi-engine, 11% jet, and 9% helicopter.[1]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

No scheduled air service as of September 30, 2014.


Carrier shares: January – December 2013[10]
Carrier   Passengers (arriving and departing)
Top domestic destinations: Jan. – Dec. 2013[10]
Rank City Airport name & IATA code Passengers
1 Atlanta, GA Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) 2,010
2 Greenville, MS Mid Delta Regional (GLH) <10

Accidents and incidents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d FAA Airport Master Record for MSL (Form 5010 PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective April 5, 2012.
  2. ^ "IATA Airport Code Search (MSL: Muscle Shoals)". International Air Transport Association. Retrieved June 6, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Essential Air Service Reports". U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved June 7, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). CY 2008 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). CY 2010 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF, 2.03 MB). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010. 
  7. ^ Patterson, Jerrita (November 23, 2010). "Delta Airlines Opts Out of Servicing the Muscle Shoals Airport". WHNT News 19. 
  8. ^ McLaughlin, Budd (October 14, 2011). "Missouri air carrier proposes serving Northwest Alabama Regional Airport". The Huntsville Times. 
  9. ^ Corey, Russ. "Regional airport pursues exit of airline". Times Daily. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "Muscle Shoals, AL: Northwest Alabama Regional (MSL)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), U.S. Department of Transportation. December 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2014. 

Other sources[edit]

  •  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
  • Shaw, Frederick J. (2004), Locating Air Force Base Sites History’s Legacy, Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, Washington DC, 2004.
  • Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC
  • Essential Air Service documents (Docket OST-2000-7856) from the U.S. Department of Transportation:
    • 90-Day Notice (August 18, 2000): from Express Airlines I, Inc. d/b/a Northwest Airlink pursuant to Section 401 (j) (1) to terminate scheduled airline service being provided by the carrier at Northwest Alabama Regional Airport (MSL).
    • Order 2005-2-11 (February 22, 2005): re-selecting Mesaba Aviation, Inc. d/b/a Northwest Airlink, to provide subsidized essential air service for the two-year period beginning February 1, 2005, at an annual rate of $1,364,697.
    • Order 2006-11-12 (November 20, 2006): selecting Mesaba Aviation, Inc., d/b/a Northwest Airlink, to provide essential air service at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, for a new two-year period beginning February 1, 2007, at a subsidy of $1,504,929 annually.
    • Order 2008-10-17 (October 16, 2008): re-selecting Mesaba Airlines, Inc., d/b/a Northwest Airlink, to provide essential air service (EAS) at annual subsidy rate of $1,782,928 at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, through January 31, 2011.
    • Order 2010-10-13 (October 19, 2010): requesting proposals from carriers interested in providing essential air service (EAS) at Muscle Shoals, for a new two-year period beginning February 1, 2011, with or without subsidy.
    • Order 2011-3-26 (March 18, 2011): selecting Gulfstream International Airlines to provide essential air service (EAS) at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, for a two-year period beginning when it inaugurates full EAS, through the end of the 24th month thereafter for an annual subsidy of $2,553,283.
    • Order 2011-6-22 (June 23, 2011): requesting proposals from carriers interested in providing essential air service (EAS) at Muscle Shoals, with or without subsidy. On June 1, Gulfstream notified the Department that it was withdrawing its offer to serve Muscle Shoals as a result of failed negotiations to obtain a code-share agreement with Delta Air Lines, Inc.
    • Order 2011-11-33 (November 30, 2011): extending service obligation for Mesaba Aviation and Pinnacle Airlines, d/b/a Delta Connection
    • Order 2012-5-17 (May 22, 2012): selecting Silver Airways, formerly Gulfstream International Airways, to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Greenville, Laurel/Hattiesburg, and Tupelo, Mississippi, and Greenbrier/White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia (Lewisburg), using 34-passenger Saab 340 aircraft, for a combined annual subsidy of $16,098,538. Tupelo will receive 18 weekly round trips over a Greenville-Tupelo-Atlanta routing
    • Order 2012-6-3 (June 6, 2012): extending the Essential Air Service obligation of the two wholly owned subsidiaries of Pinnacle Airlines Corporation—Mesaba Aviation, Inc. and Pinnacle Airlines, d/b/a Delta Connection at the eight communities listed below (Muscle Shoals, AL; Alpena, MI; Iron Mountain/Kingsford, MI; Brainerd, MN; International Falls, MN; Greenville, MS; Laurel/Hattiesburg, MS; Tupelo, MS) for 30 days, through, July 9, 2012.
    • Notice of Intent (April 9, 2014): of Silver Airways Corp. ... to discontinue subsidized scheduled air service between Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) and each of Muscle Shoals, Alabama (MSL), Greenville, Mississippi (GLH), Laurel/Hattiesburg, Mississippi (PIB), and Tupelo, Mississippi (TUP). Silver Airways intends to discontinue this service on July 8, 2014 or such earlier date as permitted by the Department in any final order terminating the eligibility of any of these communities under the essential air service (EAS) program.
    • Order 2014-4-24 (April 22, 2014): prohibits Silver Airways Corp., from terminating service at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Greenville, Laurel/Hattiesburg, Meridian, and Tupelo, Mississippi, for 30 days beyond the end of the air carrier’s 90-day notice period, i.e. August 7, 2014. We are also requesting proposals from air carriers interested in providing Essential Air Service (EAS) at Muscle Shoals, Greenville, Laurel/Hattiesburg, Meridian, and/or Tupelo.
    • Order 2014-4-26 (April 24, 2014): directing interested persons to show cause as to why the Department should not terminate the eligibility ... under the Essential Air Service (EAS) program based on criteria passed by Congress in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law No. 112-95). We find that Muscle Shoals is within 175 miles of a large or medium hub, Nashville International Airport (BNA), a medium hub, and, thus, is subject to the 10-enplanement statutory criterion. We also find that during fiscal year 2013, Muscle Shoals generated a total of 3,973 passengers (inbound plus outbound). Consistent with the methodology described above, that results in an average of 6.3 enplanements per day, below the 10-enplanement statutory criterion necessary to remain eligible in the EAS program.

External links[edit]