Air boardings up in 2013; new crew regs now having negative effect

Feb 5, 2014 From staff reports

Riverton Regional Airport surpassed the required 10,000 enplanement mark in 2013, making it eligible to receive federal funding for airport maintenance and operations.

Boardings were up a out 3 percent over 2012, but recent regulatory changes affecting crew experience could affect service negatively in 2014.

13,760 boarded

Through Dec. 31, roughly 13,760 passengers boarded a flight at Riverton Regional Airport, while approximately 13,380 passengers were counted by the end of 2012.

Both figures fall short of the roughly 14,590 passengers who boarded at the airport in 2011.

The airport's high-water mark for passenger boardings topped 19,000 in the 1991. Riverton Regional was served by more than one airline in those days, with bigger aircraft on most flights.

Service interruptions

Troubles in Great Lakes Airlines operation were more prominent near the end of the year. Nearly 100 departing flights were scheduled from Riverton Regional Airport in December, and roughly 26 of those were canceled. Another and 55 were six or more minutes late.

Only 10 flights arrived on time, and six flights were one to five minutes late.

Service interruptions worked both ways. The airport saw 71 arrivals in December out of nearly 100 scheduled flights from Denver.

From January through May, the airport mostly used the 19-seat Beechcraft 1900 aircraft.

From June to December, the 30-passenger Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia took over to cover the additional passenger load in the summer and during the holidays.

The airport reported roughly 120 landings in May --the most of any month in 2013. March and January were the next-busiest months.

The airport saw the fewest landings in November, with December having the second-fewest number of arriving flights.

Great Lakes announced in January that it was ending service to several cities in Iowa on the eastern edge of its service area.

Great Lakes Chief Executive Officer Charles Howell has blamed the moves on a federal requirement that pilots at small airlines have 1,500 hours of experience. That's up from a previous requirement of 500 hours.

Flight cancellations and delays early in 2014 have been numerous as well, as less-experienced crew members have left the airline due to the new rules, leaving Great Lakes having to compete for more experienced crew with larger airlines that offer better pay and benefits.

Howell said Great Lakes had 304 pilots a year ago and now has just 98, leaving it unable to staff all of its scheduled routes.

Flights are being canceled days ahead of time due to the pilot shortage, Howell said. Great Lakes has instituted an advance notification procedure when possible so that travelers can plan accordingly.

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