Airport readies for big influx of private planes during eclipse periodAug 1, 2017 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
Riverton Regional Airport crews mowed about 7 acres of grass recently to make room for the influx of general aviation aircraft expected to come to Riverton for the Aug. 21 eclipse.
"Right now we're calling for first-come, first-served and hope to accommodate what we can," airport division manager Paul Griffin said. "Hopefully we'll be able to accommodate a lot more."
In addition to non-local guests, the mowing of the grass will also make room for a Lander-based crowd of aircrafts that is expected in August, when Hunt Field Airport starts a construction project that will last through September.
The grass fields are intended for smaller aircraft and not commercial planes, which need a paved runway to land.
Airport staff and on-site operating agencies have received several phone calls from non-local pilots interested in arriving at Riverton.
The pilots also inquire about car rentals, parking, shuttle services and camping, Griffin said.
The airport will allow dry camping on site, and staff is looking to acquire bus services to transport people to the city and back. Griffin also plans to provide additional portable restrooms on the property.
The lease with car rental company Hertz still has not been updated, but Griffin said public works director Kyle Butterfield continues to work with the company's corporate office.
Griffin recently reported to the Riverton Airport Board that general aviation activity has increased locally in recent weeks.
Summer months usually see an increase in general aviation flights because pilots take advantage of the pleasant weather, he explained.
During the summer, he added, "crop dusters" that are hired to spray local farm fields also arrive and use the airport.
"For June, numbers always appear to be higher than other months," he said.
The airport counted 131 Riverton-based flights that landed this June - up from only 80 during the same month last year.
There were 137 in-transit flights that landed this June, up only slightly from 131 last June.
"In transit" travelers are stopping by to visit or to refuel, Griffin explained; these are often pilots landing for business purposes, for example to meet with representatives from local organizations like SageWest Health Care or Walgreens.
The airport recorded 96 multi-engine landings, up from 84 last June.
"Multi-engine landings" refers to aircraft with propellers on two engines - one mounted on each wing.
There were only 21 corporate jet landings - down slightly from 24 last June.
A corporate jet is a smaller, private aircraft. The label sometimes refers to emergency life flights coming into Riverton for business.
Helicopter landings were down too, from 59 last June to 54 during the same month this year.
Helicopters counted include life flight and forest firefighting aircraft but not military.
From January to June 2017, the total number of general aviation landings exceeds the total number of landings recorded for the same period in 2016.
On July 18, Mayor Lars Baker signed a proclamation declaring July as General Aviation Appreciation Month in Riverton.
The proclamation states that Wyoming has a significant interest in the continued vitality of general aviation, aircraft manufacturing, aviation educational institutions, aviation organizations and community airports.
"At our airport we have a big general aviation usage up there," Baker said. "Just about any time you go up there, there's two or three fairly large multi-engine aircrafts sitting on the pad there, delivering something (or) waiting to pick up and take someone home."
The proclamation also states that general aviation and the Riverton airport have an immense economic impact on Riverton.
General aviation also improves overall quality of life locally by supporting emergency medical and healthcare services, law enforcement and firefighting and disaster relief, and by transporting business travelers to their destinations quickly and safely, the proclamation states.