Sandpiper Air is a Nantucket-based business and operates out of Tom Nevers Field. Prior to 1987 the business was called Sconset Air, owned by two pilots who were run out of business for running afoul of the prominent Kingsbury family. In 1987 the route and counter formerly used by Sconset Air were acquired by Joe Hackett. The concept of Sandpiper Air had been considered by Joe Hackett for a long time prior to it getting off the ground. As a child he loved flying, and as a teen he took aviation lessons. When he grew up Joe worked as a corporate jet pilot until he amassed enough capital to strike out on his own. The original idea for Sandpiper had been slightly different than what became reality. Joe had been dating a woman named Carol, and his plans were to run Sandpiper as a "mom & pop" small business, with Joe captaining the flights while Carol (after marriage) would administer the ticket counter. However, Joe's younger brother Brian, ran off with Carol, causing rifts in the Hackett family and the abandonment of Sandpiper Air. Joe was flying to Hawaii on a major airline when he encountered an angry woman named Fay Cochran, who was bitter about spending years working faithfully for the airline only to be forced into mandatory retirement. In getting to know Joe, Fay became his partner, and went to work to Sandpiper as its ticket agent.

After the death of Donald Hackett (Joe's father), Joe is encouraged to make peace with Brian, and even gives him a co-pilot job at Sandpiper. This has mixed results until later on in the series when Brian is flying solo does it begin to dawn on him the seriousness of being a business owner. Due to Nantucket's limited geography, there is only one airport and limited flights, and only two airlines, with Sandpiper being the weaker member of the duopoly. The stronger member, Aeromass, is owned by Roy Biggins, who is generally disliked among the Nantucket natives. As Aeromass was hardly making money as a monopoly, competition is seen as crippling to Roy. Although Sandpiper is often shown struggling to stay afloat, Roy Biggins considers Sandpiper a threat, and frequently tries to run it out of business or become the majority shareholder.