Tupelo Airport Authority’s board of directors dipped into the ranks of well-known Mississippi aviation administrators Monday with the hiring of Cliff Nash to become executive director at Tupelo Regional Airport.

Directors voted to hire Nash at a special called meeting, concluding a search to find a successor to Josh Abramson, who left Tupelo to become airport executive at College Station, Texas, which is the larger Texas A&M University area.

Nash will begin his new role Monday. He will move from Tunica, where he has headed the Tunica Airport since 2002. The airport serves the casino community in the north Delta.

Nash has accepted a challenge, as all other recent executives at Tupelo Regional would agree. Tupelo, like many other regional cities, has been tossed in the turbulence of changing economics among regional carriers and the financial challenges posed in part by more difficult long-haul connections at airports beyond Tupelo.

Bottom lines with airlines must be profitable for sustained service, and sometimes it does not happen even with a federal subsidy.

SeaPort Airlines serves Tupelo with a single-engine Cessna aircraft, with flights to Memphis and Nashville.

However, as Nash noted, Tupelo Regional has other substantial assets.

The airport has runways long enough to handle full-size medium haul jets, which provides an opportunity for larger aircraft even if not commercial passenger service.

Passenger service has been a unique asset in the immediate area for 60 years, beginning with  Southern Airways, a vanished era.

Nash previously was executive director in Greenville, another airport that has struggled.

Airport board chairman Fred Cook said a viable Tupelo Regional is a necessity, which is correct. Any negative issues in the airport’s portfolio would be compounded in not keeping it as a front-burner priority for the city.

Nash served in the U.S. Air Force as an air traffic control officer in both fixed and mobile facilities and performed air space management duties that included redesigning the airspace used by the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana. That military background should be beneficial in working with the U.S. Army’s military operations at Tupelo Regional.

Nash earned his Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Mississippi and has a Master of Aeronautical Science degree from Emby-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The Mississippi Airports Association is having its state meeting in Tupelo on May 13-15 at the BancorpSouth Conference Center, an opportunity to compare and learn from other airports in Mississippi.

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