Airport Task Force asks state for additional airline service in city

Apr 29, 2014 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The recently formed Airport Task Force has submitted a request for additional airline service at Riverton Regional Airport to the Aeronautics Division of the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

Task force chairwoman Missy White relayed the message to the Riverton Airport Board on Friday during the group's monthly meeting and said Wyoming Aeronautics will work with airlines that can provide reliable air service.

"They are talking to a number of different airlines," White said. "In addition to Sky West, there are other potential carriers."

She listed Mesa, Air Wisconsin, Frontier, United, Silver Airways, Gulf Air, Horizon Air and American Eagle as possible carrier options. Great Lakes Airlines currently operates commercial air service at the airport.

White said the cost of hiring another airline is difficult to determine so early but it remains a priority for the task force.

"We don't know what that target is, because we don't know who the airline might be, what aircraft and the cost affiliated with that aircraft and then according to the service," White said, adding ideally they would like to come up with half of a "target figure" before reaching out for public and private investment.

The task force also expects input about reliable air service from representatives of Cody's Yellowstone Regional Airport. She said the task force gained "enthusiastic representation" from Wind River Hotel and Casino, IDEA Inc. and the Northern Arapaho Business Council, and the committee hopes to make presentations to interested organizations in the county to provide more information.

"We can't over communicate how important the airport is," White said. "The Riverton airport brings in $36 million a year to Fremont County ... that's massive."

With a second carrier, the revenue would increase substantially, she said, and create a bigger economic impact.

Schedule changes

Great Lakes plans to change its flight schedule and aircraft use at Riverton Regional Airport again.

Beginning May 1, the airport will begin operating only the 19-passenger Beechcraft 1900. In April, the carrier decided to use only the 30-passenger Embraer 120 Brasilia.

Riverton Regional Airport division manager Paul Griffin said he does not know whether the Beechcraft will have only nine seats, which is a new configuration Great Lakes has implemented to allow co-pilots to fly the aircraft while abiding by Federal Aviation Administration Part 135 regulations.

The Beechcraft will operate five flights Sunday through Friday. Two will connect to Worland and three to Denver. Saturday will have four flights with two connecting to Worland and two to Denver. The change could make for some reliability, he explained.

"Worland being an Essential Air Service carrier, they have to fly that route so cancellations, I think, will be less with us," Griffin said.

With the use of the Embraer in April, he added that flights would arrive with only nine or 10 passengers.

Griffin also reported to the airport board that more 53 percent of flights were canceled in March while the majority of those that did not get canceled were delayed by six minutes or more.

"It's the crew rest issue, the pilot shortage issue, and it's not just Riverton," he said, adding that other airports in the state, such as those in Sheridan and Cheyenne, are showing similar numbers.

Riverton, however, is doing better than statewide average numbers, he said. Year-to-date numbers showed that roughly 880 fewer passengers enplaned at the airport this year, up until March, compared to the previous year-to-date. Roughly 800 fewer passengers have disembarked from an aircraft at Riverton airport this year compared to last year.

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