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Airport earns top marks from FAA, council hears

Airport earns top marks from FAA, council hears in detailed presentation

Jun 17, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Riverton Regional Airport has been recognized by Federal Aviation Administration inspectors as one of the top two airports in an eight-state FAA Northwest Region.

The Riverton city council acknowledged learned of the recognition last week during a work session that included a presentation from airport operator II Milan Vinich.

Vinich retired as captain from the Riverton Police Department, then served as interim police chief until he became security coordinator at the airport before taking his current position.

He said the FAA recognition is a plus for the community.

"With all that we see going on, it really does act as a lubricant for positive economic benefit for our county," Vinich said. "And that's probably what some people don't see that we see every day."

Riverton Regional, the only commercial airport in Fremont County, has been troubled this year by unreliable service from Great Lakes Airlines. Vinich said other aspects of the airport are first rate.

He noted the benefits of amenities such free parking, a restaurant, rental car service at the terminal, and the fixed-based operator that provides aircraft with fuel, maintenance services and parking.

An air ambulance unit also is stationed at the airport and allows the transport of medical professionals to travel in and out of Riverton for emergencies or routine visits. Vinich said the unit was a "very valuable asset" that was prepared to operate at any time of the day.

Classic Life Guard has a helicopter and a fixed-wing King Air plane in their hangar. Hospitals from Denver and Billings often pick up patients from the airport. He said sometimes there are six emergency life-flight transports that occur in a day.

He said radio equipment plays a big role in the winter when snow plowing is needed on the runway in order to transport patients in an emergency. Vinich said airport workers always accommodate those situations, no matter what time it is.

The airport also houses high-tech aviation instrumentation that is maintained by the FAA. Space is leased out to the car rental businesses, a restaurant operator, a fixed-based operator and Transportation Security Administration.

Regarding commercial air service, Vinich noted that Great Lakes Airlines has been showing improvements because new pilots with the required flight hours are being hired, and because of the flight connection to Worland airport, which is a federal Essential Air Service field.

Vinich said different types of aircraft frequent the airport including charter flights and corporate flights from Encana, Kroeger, Wells Fargo, Conoco Phillips and others.

UPS is another consistent airport user, Vinich said, loading and unloading cargo twice a day.

"That's a hidden asset to our community right there," he said.

Other aircraft include agricultural pest control companies Sky Aviation and Wind River AG, which are also leased land at the airport.

"They're also purchasing water for their pesticide solutions from us," he said.

The Bureau of Land Management also can lease space at the airport to station two wild fire fighting aircrafts. They will also purchase water from the city.

The airport operator conducts a police, fire and operations service at the airport. Vinich said the triple module has combined duties and saves the city money. He began law enforcement personnel training at the airport to focus on airport security duties. Positions and responsibilities are not duplicated.

Several employees hold more than one title, Vinich said, and are trained to be emergency medical responders and carry out some firefighting duties. Runway checks are done continuously, including maintenance of runway lights.

Safety concerns are a top priority for staff. Workers clear debris that is often swept around by the wind which could a hazard to aircraft.

"The last thing we need is a trash bag to get sucked into a jet engine that costs $60 million dollars," he said.

Workers also check the eight miles of fencing around the airport. They look for animals that try to dig beneath the fence, and they also mow and maintain about 150 acres of vegetation that could posed a fire threat.

Also inspected are fuel trucks, hoses, fire extinguishers and grounding cables.

The airport also does finger printing for background checks for all employees and workers who arrive for construction projects. Emergency drills are also done, which are required by the FAA and TSA.

Mayor Ron Warpness said Vinich's presentation showed the high quality of operations, ensuring the airport maintains its FAA Operating Certificate so it can operate as a FAA Part 139 Commercial Airport.

"There's no job too small. We do it all," Vinich said. "I wanted to give you an idea of all that goes on at the airport."

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