North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field may soon be home to the first and only Christian airline.
Representatives for the non-profit Judah 1 announced plans to start operations of a new airline aimed at providing transportation for missionaries and support efforts across the world, with NTRA serving as its base of operations.
Judah 1 founder Everett Aaron said the organization will not be a charter service, but will instead offer tickets to groups and individuals to remote areas for missions work using large airliners capable of carrying larger groups and cargo.
“This is not just a typical airline,” Aaron said. “This is not schedule routes and we are not taking people from Dallas to Vegas. That is not what this is about.
“All of this is about missionaries and giving back and helping the world become a better place,” he added. “That’s what we are about.”
Aaron, who is also an ordained minister, said the idea for Judah 1 first came in 1994 following a prayer time in which he felt called to assist missionaries. More than 20 years later, he said he is now ready to follow up on that calling.
Current estimates indicate that at least 400,000 Americans travel for missionary work, Aaron said. Among the possible partnering organizations is Baptist Medical and Dental Mission International, which sends 4,000 missionaries a year into the field, and Kids Against Hunger, which provide more than eight tons of food weekly.
The organization first formed in Tulsa before moving Fort Worth Alliance Airport. Aaron said Judah 1 was prepared to open at Alliance, but ran into issues regarding the desire to transport passengers as Alliance typically focuses on freight and cargo. Despite the setback, Aaron said he was then introduced to NTRA and its long runways that can handle larger aircraft.
Initially, Aaron said he planned to operate Judah 1 under Federal Aviation Administration regulations as a private operator. The non-profit would not be able to sell individual tickets and would only be able to provide services to a maximum of five other organizations annually, while acting similarly to a charter service.
However, Aaron said the FAA informed him that he would be unable to operate under that regulation, partially due to one of the four confirmed groups being an agent. He said the same conversation opened up the possibility for the organization to start operating under another regulation as a scheduled airline.
This will allow the group to provide services to more organizations while also selling individual tickets for trips across the globe.
Initial plans called for Judah 1 to start operations in January, but the transition to an airline set back expectations to complete the project by about six months.
Aaron said that the airline’s services would be focused primarily on transportation for missionaries, with secondary services offered for partner organizations, including the Make a Wish Foundation and the Wounded Warrior Project. Operations will primarily be conducted using McDonnell Douglas MD83 and Boeing 767 aircraft, which will be able to carry both passengers and cargo together.
Documents provided by the airline state that they plan to fly groups as large as 140 people to their destinations without the need for connecting flights. As an advantage over other options, transporting supplies along with passengers will allow for security and help ensure that the cargo reaches its destination while also reducing shipping costs.
Aaron estimated that as much as 50 percent of supplies intended for relief or missionary work do not reach their destination. Common issues include items lost in transit, spoilage from items stuck in customs and theft.
In addition to flying larger aircraft for transcontinental trips, Aaron said he would also like to eventually add a full scale charter service to the organization’s services.
Currently, Judah 1 works out of the Lake Texoma Jet Center, but has plans to build its own offices at NTRA. Aaron briefly discussed plans to build facilities with a 60,000-square-foot hangar with an additional 25,000 square feet of office space.
Members of the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority voiced approval of the proposed airline during its meeting Thursday morning.
“Everett, we are tickled to death to have you guys here and are excited for the future,” GCRMA Chairman Robert Brady said.
For the airport itself, officials said that the inclusion of an airline could lead to greater growth for NTRA. Airport Director Bob Torti said the addition of Judah 1 could lead NTRA to change its status with the FAA.
“I think something of this magnitude and the planes they will be bringing in may require us to become a part 139 organization,” Torti said.
According to its regulations, part 139 oversees airports that serve air carriers and airlines of smaller size. However, Torti said that the transition could take as long as two years to fully implement.
Among the other changes that could be spurred by the inclusion of the airline is the addition of radar services to the airport. Torti gave few details about the possibility of added radar to the control tower, but said it was a safety measure that the airport is quickly beginning to need.
“We have to have this,” Torti said. “People are talking about growth, but if you don’t have the tools to handle it, it is not a good situation.”