“I always wanted to come back here,” he says. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to live back here as a pilot. For me it was a dream job. I’m flying a wonderful airplane, and I’m here at home helping my son with his homework. I’m home every night.”
Ozark also features the father-and-daughter team of Jack and Kathy Ekl. The elder Ekl is a former U.S. Navy Blue Angels pilot with 27,000 hours of jet time in both the Navy and Air Force Reserve; he passed his love of flying on to his daughter, who started flying at age 15.
Since the new Ozark began operations, Boston says, 40 percent more passengers are using the airport and revenues are “way up.” Ellis says he fields calls almost every week from other cities that want Ozark jet service.
Perhaps that’s the beginning of an inevitable cycle: As the old Ozark grew and added more sophisticated aircraft, it first served—and later shed—some of the same towns. But for now, Missourians are watching the rise of their brand-new line, equipped with the latest aircraft and a hometown smile.