Founded in 1953 to provide Drake Field with regular service to Little Rock and Tulsa, Scheduled Skyways grew from a single pilot and single plane into one of the nation's largest commuter lines during the early 1980s.
Ray Ellis was the heart and driving force of Skyways which based its operations out of this and other buildings at Drake Field.
On Sept. 1, 1953, as the pilot and president of Scheduled Skyways, Ellis made his first commercial flight to Little Rock. An indication of the value of Skyways to the local community can be judged by his first passengers -- University of Arkansas president Dr. John T. Caldwell, Arkansas Razorbacks athletic director John Barnhill and Fayetteville businessman Dwight Morris. The trip from Fayetteville to Little Rock cost Caldwell, Barnhill and Morris $13.60 for the round trip. During 1953, flyers had a choice of three flights a day. If you wanted to go to Tulsa, the cost was only $11.53. By 1964, the trip in Scheduled Skyways' Cessna 195 cost a whopping $26.
By 1979, the name was Skyways and there were five destinations on the system map: Fort Smith and Little Rock in Arkansas; Tulsa, Okla.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Dallas, Texas. If you replace Tulsa with Kansas City, that's about the same destinations that five commuter lines currently provide over 40 departures daily from Drake Field.
In the 1980s, Skyways reached its peak. Operating the nation's largest fleet of 18-passenger Metroliners, Skyways had over 100 daily flights and a system map that reached from Panama City and Pensacola in Florida to the south, to Knoxville, Tenn., to the east and to Dallas in the west.
The system consolidated operations in 1984 with more flights in Mississippi and adding routes in Missouri while dropping the Alabama and Florida destinations.
Ellis' airline flourished until showdowns with larger carriers for routes assigned by the FAA brought about the end of Skyways. Eventually, Skyways became part of Air Midwest, but the operations in Fayetteville stopped during the 1980s.