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Knoxville – “The Spirit of the Volunteers” took to the air Thursday when Northwest Airlines honored the University of Tennessee by giving that name to its Nashville-Knoxville connecting flight.

The new flight service will be operated with Saab 340 regional turbo-prop aircraft, offering several flights daily.

UT-s vice president for governmental and public relations said it-s a special honor for the university.

“It-s very significant that this is the first plane that Northwest has named for a university,” said Tom Ballard. “That says Northwest has a great deal of pride and faith in the University of Tennessee.”

Phil Reed, vice president of marketing for Northwest, said his company has strong ties to Memphis and the entire state of Tennessee.

“That-s part of why we developed air service connecting all portions of the state,” said Reed.

Ballard said expanded air service from Knoxville helps the university achieve its goals.

“It underscores the importance of the linkage between UT-s Health Science Center in Memphis, the university-s headquarters in Knoxville, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which UT manages now,” Ballard said, “as we work to become a top 25 research university.”