MKE HAS SPIRIT!

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On Thursday June 24th, 2021 at 1343 a vibrant yellow painted Airbus A321 touched down on rain-soaked runway 19R at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport, Spirit Airlines had officially arrived. The inaugural inbound flight was operated by a three-year-old Airbus A321-231, serial number 7825, which can accommodate 228 passengers in a 2-class configuration and is registered N679NK. The inaugural flight, Spirit Airlines flight 647, departed from Los Angeles International Airports Gate 56A at 0823. Spirit Airlines flight 647 pulled into Gate D-43 at General Mitchell International Airport at 1348 to a water canon salute from the Airport Fire Department.

The inaugural outbound flight was scheduled to depart as Spirit Airlines flight 529 to Orlando International Airport at 1640, but not before some festivities in the main terminal and at the gate area. In the main terminal area, a beach themed area was set up complete with beach chairs, beach balls, surf boards, and sand to be used as a back drop for photos and speeches by airport and airline officials. At approximately 1500, General Mitchell International Airport Director Brian Dranzik, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, and Spirit Airlines Vice President of Network Planning John Kirby all made remarks to commemorate this event and to formally welcome Spirit to the Badger State.

Airport Director Brian Dranzik remarked “It’s just a great feeling being here today to welcome new air service to Milwaukee. When you think about where we were a year ago, it’s hard to imagine that we would be introducing a new airline here at Milwaukee.” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley added “Spirit brings affordable fares to popular destinations which will make it easier for our Milwaukee travelers to connect with their friends and family this summer and beyond.” John Kirby from Spirit Airlines commented “We see a vibrant future full of new opportunities for travel here in the Badger State.”

John Kirby also took advantage of this event to announce a major expansion of service to Milwaukee. Spirit Airlines is currently serving three cities nonstop from Milwaukee; Los Angeles CA, Las Vegas NV, and Orlando FL, new service will begin later this year to an additional five cities. November 17th will see the addition of daily non-stop service to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, and Tampa FL, and Phoenix AZ. On December 23rd, nonstop service will be operated three times a week to Cancun Mexico. All these new flights will be operated with a combination of Airbus types, of which they currently have 161 aircraft in service with another 132 on order. Spirit Airlines has one of the youngest fleets of aircraft out of any airline at an average of 5.6 years. Spirit Airlines also presented a special donation to the Ronald McDonald House of Milwaukee, as events wrapped up in the main terminal.

The festivities moved to Spirit’s gate D-43, where banners, balloons, and cookies awaited passengers to commemorate the event. As Prime Flight (Spirit’s Ground Handler) loaded N679NK for the inaugural departure, a symbolic ribbon cutting ceremony took place. The Airport Director, County Executive, and several Spirit Airlines Executives were on hand to cut a Spirit branded ribbon prior to the first passengers boarding the aircraft. Spirit Airlines Flight 529 started boarding at 1605, with Flight Attendants handing out Inaugural Flight Certificates to each passenger as they boarded. The boarding process went smoothly and efficiently, with the main cabin door closed and pushback commencing at 1646. The taxi time to Runway 19R took twelve minutes with Spirit Airlines flight 529 being number two for departure behind a Piedmont Airlines (American Eagle) Embraer E-145 departing to Philadelphia PA. Spirit Airlines flight 529 took the runway and was airborne at 1658 after an arriving SkyWest Airlines (United Express) Mitsubishi CRJ-200 from Chicago O’Hare cleared the runway.

Spirit Airlines flight 529 would arrive at Orlando International Airport’s Gate 34 at 2024 local time, 7 minutes early. Spirit’s commitment to Milwaukee is very much welcomed as other airlines are still trying to return to pre-Covid levels. Spirit’s future is as bright as their Airbus aircraft are painted here in Milwaukee. I would like to thank everyone in the General Mitchell International Airport Public Relations Department as well as everyone at Spirit Airlines for their gracious help, assistance, and hospitality in making this article possible. Until next time, “Blue Skies to All!”

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Scott Jankowski

Scott Jankowski - Franklin, Wisconsin Like so many others my love of aviation started when I was young, very young. I was only three years old when my Parents took me to my first air show here in Milwaukee, the rest you could say is “history”. I would read aviation magazines instead of Comic Books. I would prefer my Dad take me to the airport to watch airplanes instead of throwing a Football around. I grew up watching Convair 580’s, DC9’s and 727’s from the terminal here in Milwaukee, no Stage Three noise compliance back then! I started to seriously take pictures in the Mid 1980’s , for my birthday that year I finally had my first decent camera. I would head down to the airport with my pockets full of Kodak Film and take pictures of anything and everything. It did not matter if it was a Air Wisconsin Dash-7 or a 128TH ARW KC-135E if it had an engine I took a picture of it. I would drop those rolls off to be developed and three days later tear into the envelopes to see the results, which to be honest were not that good but there were a few keepers every once and a while. Fast forwarding to today with much better equipment and skills I spend as much time as I can at both General Mitchell International and Chicago O’Hare which are my Hometown Airports. While times and aircraft have changed the excitement is still as great as it was back all of those years ago. It makes no difference if it is 737, P-51, F-16, or Lear 35 I will not pass on any photo opportunity as you may not get that chance again. Even though my primary focus is on Commercial Aviation I still frequent as many Air shows as I can in the short Summer Season. I am fortunate enough to have EAA Air Venture in my backyard only being only an Hour and Half from my home. I routinely attend Air shows here in Milwaukee, Rockford, Chicago, Ypsilanti and the Quad Cities. I am very fortunate to be part of the Photorecon.Net and PHX Spotters Team and am looking forward to bringing everyone some Air show and Airliner action from the Midwest Region!

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