HISTORY OF AIRLINE SERVICE AT WAYCROSS, GEORGIA
Eastern Air Lines, one of America's "big four" major airlines, began scheduled passenger service to Waycross Ware County Airport on November 14, 1948. Two flights a day were operated with Douglas DC-3s, one in each direction on an Atlanta - Macon - Waycross - Jacksonville route. This list of new services appeared in Eastern's 1949 annual report.
Eastern Air Lines representative A. F. Etheredge hand delivered a package from the Waycross Chamber of Commerce to Atlanta Mayor (and airport namesake) William Hartsfield on the inauguration of service between the two cities. The package included "cigars, cane syrup, stick candy, pecans, and honey packed in moss gathered on the banks of the Suwannee River".
Waycross is shown as a stop between Jacksonville and Macon in this Eastern Air Lines route map effective April 27, 1958.
Traffic at Waycross never developed beyond a handful of passengers each day. The 1958 edition of Airport Activity Statistics of Certificated Route Air Carriers shows that Eastern carried 2,131 revenue passengers aboard 943 departures from Waycross that year. That's an average of 2.26 passengers per flight. Almost all of those flights operated with 40-passenger Martin 404s with the occasional substitution of Convair 340s.
Southeastern Airlines operated a short-lived, multi-stop service between Atlanta and Jacksonville in 1963 including stops in Waycross using 4-passenger Piper Apaches. The November 1963 Official Airline Guide shows a single daily flight in each direction. This schedule shows an astonishing 13 stops between Waycross and Atlanta! Image courtesy of David H. Stringer.
By the late 1960s, Eastern was serving Waycross with a single daily Convair 440 round trip to Atlanta via Macon. With the upcoming retirement of the last of their piston-engine propeller Convairs, and with the Waycross market too small to support larger aircraft, Eastern won approval to suspend Waycross service in 1969. Eastern was allowed to discontinue the service under the condition that a replacement carrier take over the route. Air South won approval to provide substitute service under an initial 3 year contract.
Air South inaugurated 3 weekday round trips between Waycross and Atlanta on July 1, 1969 using Beech 99s.
Air South introduced the 40-passenger Fokker F-27 turboprop on the Atlanta - Waycross - St. Simons Island route on February 15, 1974. This was a major step up from the Beech 99s and equaled the speed and comfort of Eastern's Convair 440s. Air South's timetables stated, "It features all the amenities of the big jets including stewardess, on-board refreshments, extra comfortable seating, pressurized cabins, and lavatory." This is a postcard view of an F-27 at the Waycross terminal.
Air South's February 15, 1974 timetable shows F-27 flights to Atlanta and St. Simons and Beech 99s used on the Waycross - Dublin - Atlanta route and weekend flights to St. Simons.
Air South's January 1, 1975 timetable shows four F-27 flights at Waycross, two in each direction between Atlanta and St. Simons. The airline changed ownership in early 1975 and all service to Waycross was discontinued.
Following a 3 and 1/2 year absence, Air South returned to Waycross on September 25, 1978 with two flights a day: a direct morning flight from Atlanta via St. Simons Island flown with Martin 404s and an evening nonstop from Atlanta flown with DC-3s.
A photo from the September 26, 1978 edition of the Waycross Journal-Herald showing officials gathered for the re-launch of air service on the previous morning. This particular aircraft, Martin 404 N258S (sn 14232), was originally delivered to Eastern Air Lines as N484A in 1952 and almost certainly flew this same route two decades earlier.
A few more photos from the inauguration. The Waycross and Ware County Airport sign featured an alligator and the comic strip character Pogo Possum, both representing the nearby Okefenokee Swamp.
A detail from Air South's September 15, 1978 timetable showing Waycross flights from Atlanta and St. Simons. Despite the attempts of local officials to generate traffic at Waycross, the airline reportedly lost $32,000 on the route in the first 4 months and service was discontinued on February 14, 1979.
It would be another 4 and 1/2 years before airline service returned to Waycross. Atlantis Airlines began weekday flights to Atlanta on November 1, 1983 using Piper Navajos. The occasion was front page news in the Waycross Journal-Herald.
Atlantis Airlines' June 1, 1984 timetable shows two weekday round trips between Atlanta and Waycross.
Atlantis Airlines colorful Piper Navajo N4082H pictured on the Atlanta ramp.
Atlantis partnered with Eastern Air Lines in 1984, providing connecting flights into Eastern's Atlanta and Charlotte hubs. These flights were included in Eastern's reservation system and appeared in Eastern's timetables. Despite the high-profile visibility, the Waycross flights seldom carried more than one or two passengers. Without the traffic demand to justify Essential Air Service subsidies enjoyed by other small communities across the United States, scheduled passenger airline service at Waycross ended in late 1984.
Here are a few photos of the old Waycross terminal taken in the 1990s, long after air service had ended. Photos courtesy of Blaine Peters.