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After dismal first four months, airport figures could be better in May

May 20, 2014 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Boardings are down almost 1,200 in 2014 compared to last year.

A trend of fewer passengers boarding an airplane at Riverton Regional Airport continued in April.

From Jan. 1 to April 30 this year, roughly 1,200 fewer passengers boarded a flight at the airport compared to last year's year-to-date number. By the end of March that number was at about 880.

Through April 2013, about 3,600 passengers had boarded a commercial flight. This year, that figure was about 2,400.

Also, 85 departures were canceled from Riverton Regional through four months of the year, 22 of them in April.

Airport division manager Paul Griffin said numbers might start to look better by the end of May because of new scheduling that includes a connection to Worland. Great Lakes set that new connection beginning May 1. Fewer cancellations are expected because of this connection. Worland, the smallest by far of Wyoming's commercial airports, is a federally designated Essential Air Service airport and has priority scheduling.

Riverton Regional's sole carrier, Great Lakes Airlines, also had changed its flight schedule in April but revised it again in May and now is employing the 19-passenger Beechcraft 1900 only. The new schedule offers five flights per day Sunday through Friday and four flights on Saturday.

May boarding and cancellation figures are expected to be released at the June Airport Board meeting.

Griffin also said the airline is not operating a reconfigured Beech 1900 in Riverton in which 10 seats are removed from the 19-passenger airplane. The change was implemented by Great Lakes on some of its planes recently to allow less-experienced co-pilots to fly the aircraft under Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

Great Lakes and other smaller carriers have seen an impact of a shortage of pilots and co-pilots after federal regulation increased the minimum experience requirements on commercial aircraft of 10 seats or more.

Other airport items

The airport also received the delivery of a new snowplow/dump truck. Most of the federal funding the airport received for hitting the 10,000-person enplanement mark last year was used to pay for the truck, Griffin said. For that reason also, the city of Riverton can't use the truck anywhere but the airport.

The Airport Task Force, formed to seek additional airline service at the airport, has been meeting on a monthly basis. At its April meeting, Griffin said there is concern that runway construction next year could impact air service further.

Task force members discussed how each airline has its own standards for weight and runway width restrictions, so it would be difficult to know how limited a new carrier would be at the airport during construction. These limitations could impact the 10,000 enplanement mark requirement.

Construction on the runway is expected to take five to six months.

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