Carlsbad-Cavern City Air Terminal
The commercial airport serving Carlsbad and Eddy County, New Mexico was initially established in 1942 as the Carlsbad Army Air Base. In late 1945, after the end of World War II, the military base was deactivated and the airfield was turned over for civilian use. Air service is provided by one commuter airline with daily flights to Albuquerque and Dallas/Fort Worth that are subsidized under the Essential Air Service program provided by the federal government.
Historical commercial airline service:
Commercial airline service began at Carlsbad on May 11, 1940 when Continental Air Lines began a route that originated in Denver and operated to Albuquerque, then onto Roswell, Hobbs, and Carlsbad, ending in El Paso. Lockheed Electra and Lodestar aircraft were first used, then upgraded to Douglas DC-3’s a few years later. New extensions were soon added east from El Paso, Carlsbad and Hobbs to Midland, San Angelo and San Antonio, as well as to Lubbock, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Kansas City. In 1955 Continental merged with Pioneer Air Lines and obtained new routes into Dallas with some flights operating direct from Carlsbad.
The Continental operation continued until November 5, 1963 when all service to Southeastern New Mexico was transferred to Trans-Texas Airways (TTA). TTA began with DC-3 aircraft and routes to Albuquerque, El Paso, and Dallas. The carrier soon upgraded with much larger Convair-240’s and Convair-600’s and changed their name to Texas International Airlines (TI) in 1969. For a brief time in 1977/1978, TI tried going all-jet and operated Douglas DC-9’s into Carlsbad but the service was soon switched back to Convair-600’s. All service ended at the beginning of 1979. As TI was designated as a local service carrier by the federal government and the carrier was serving Carlsbad at the time of airline deregulation in 1978, Carlsbad is eligible for guaranteed Essential Air Service (EAS) with government subsidy.
Several commuter carriers have served Carlsbad during and since the departure of Texas International as outlined below:
Bison Airlines, provided flights to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, El Paso, and Midland/Odessa in 1963 through 1964 using de-Havilland Dove and Aero Commander aircraft.
Trans Central Airlines operated an El Paso-Carlsbad-Hobbs-Lubbock route as well as an El Paso-Carlsbad-Artesia-Roswell-Clovis-Amarillo route in 1970 using Cessna 402 aircraft.
New Mexico Air (formerly Roswell Airlines) operated flights to El Paso and Roswell in 1978 using Piper Navajo aircraft.
Crown Airlines began service to Albuquerque on February 1, 1979 with Cessna 402 and Piper Navajo aircraft. Service ended on January 17, 1980 when the carrier ceased operating.
Permian Airways provided service on an El Paso-Carlsbad-Roswell-Amarillo route as well as an El Paso-Carlsbad-Hobbs-Midland/Odessa-San Angelo-San Antonio route from 1979 through early 1981. Permian used Piper Navajo aircraft.
Air Midwest was selected as the Essential Air Service (EAS) carrier for Carlsbad following the departure of Texas International and began service on March 1, 1979 using Swearingen Metroliner aircraft. Initial routes were to Albuquerque and to Lubbock via Hobbs. The Lubbock flights were replaced with flights to Midland/Odessa in 1982 but ended in late 1984. All service ended on January 31, 1986.
Mesa Airlines began service on November 15, 1984 with flights to Albuquerque and to Midland/Odessa via Hobbs using Beech-99 aircraft. The Midland flights were short lived and all flights to Albuquerque were later upgraded to Beech-1300 followed by Beech-1900 aircraft. Mesa became the EAS provider following the departure of Air Midwest and service continued for nearly 23 years ending on June 30, 2007.
Turner Air provided flights to El Paso and Silver City for a brief period in 1985. The carrier used Cessna type aircraft.
Trans-Colorado Airlines, operating on behalf of Continental Airlines as Continental Express, began an Albuquerque-Roswell-Carlsbad-El Paso route on April 1, 1987 using Swearingen Metroliner aircraft. The link from Carlsbad to El Paso was dropped only two months later and all remaining service ended on July 31, 1987. This was the only airline offering a major carrier code-share alliance service to Carlsbad.
Big Sky Airlines briefly served the city beginning October 21, 2000 with Swearingen Metroliner aircraft on a route from Dallas/Fort Worth to Hobbs, Carlsbad, Roswell, Denver, and ending in Billings, Montana. The route was later modified to Dallas/Fort Worth-Carlsbad-Roswell but all service ended in March, 2001.
Pacific Wings/New Mexico Airlines obtained the EAS authorization following the departure of Mesa Airlines and began flights with an Albuquerque-Carlsbad-Hobbs route beginning July 1, 2007 and using single-engine Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft. Flights to El Paso were also operated during 2008 through 2010. All service ended in May, 2015 when the carrier went out of business.
Boutique Air then obtained the EAS authorization and began flights from Carlsbad to Albuquerque and Dallas/Fort Worth on June 1, 2015. The carrier uses Pilatus PC-12 aircraft and in late 2020 began using Beech 350 King Air’s on many flights. Service to El Paso operated for three months in early 2021. After the carrier secured a four-year renewal of its EAS contract for Carlsbad in the spring of 2021, the El Paso flights were dropped and all other flights reverted back to using PC-12 aircraft. Boutique also added a second flight to DFW in 2021 but dropped it by the end of the year as well.
Key Lime Air, dba Denver Air Connection, operated a weekly round-trip charter flight from Grand Junction, Colorado to Carlsbad in late 2017. The flights were flown on Tuesdays using Fairchild Dornier 328 Jet aircraft. In mid-2021, the carrier began a weekly round-trip flight between Denver Centennial Airport and Carlsbad also with a 328 Jet. The flights originally operated on Sundays and were later changed to early Tuesday mornings. The operation was suspended on February 28, 2023.
Occidental Petroleum uses an Embraer 175 regional jet operated by SwiFlight aircraft on a Houston Bush Intercontinental – Midland/Odessa – Carlsbad round trip route. The private charter flights started in early 2019 and operate once per day up to four days per week. Occasionally a flight will continue on from Carlsbad to Denver Centennial Airport. Other oil companies also frequently run charter flights through Carlsbad.
Carlsbad is also served with airfreight feeder service on behalf of UPS with flights to Albuquerque. Ameriflight had operated this service using Beechcraft 99 aircraft until 2019 when South Aero took over using Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and Cessna 404 Titan aircraft.
South Aero now provides a daily flight to Albuquerque on behalf of UPS using a Cessna aircraft after Ameriflight ended their service in 2020.