ST. CLOUD - Today (Wednesday) we're kick-off our countdown of the Top 10 News Stories of 2012.  At number ten is the return of regular air service to the St. Cloud Regional Airport.

It's not the ultimate goal, but it's a very good start.  That was the message from local officials back in August when it was announced Allegiant Airlines would provide two regular flights a week to-and-from the Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona.

The first flight took off just this past Saturday.

Allegiant executives say they could add more flights to Mesa, or possibly other destinations, depending on local demand.

It's big news because the St. Cloud Regional Airport has sat virtually empty for the past three years, since Delta stopped their regular flights to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in December of 2009.

Meanwhile, The Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation continues to try to recruit other airlines, with the ultimate prize being regular daily flights to-and-from Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

To help lure an airline, they've secured more than $6.1 million in local travel commitments from area businesses.  The airport has also secured over $1 million in Federal grants and money from local governments for a potential airline to use to cover any losses during the start-up.

Coming-up tomorrow (Thursday) we'll have our #9 story of the year.