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Airport flight numbers up after added Worland connection

Jun 20, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Connections to the Worland Municipal Airport has helped boost flight numbers in the past months at Riverton Regional Airport. Since the beginning of the year, the airport has implemented several aircraft and schedule changes set by its carrier Great Lakes Airlines.

In April, the airport reported 85 departures with 22 of those canceled. In May, the airport began using only the 19-passenger Beechcraft 1900 airplane and scheduled 140 departures from the Riverton airport. Only 35 of those flights were canceled. Two connections to Worland are made at noon and in the evening Sunday through Friday.

Airport division manager Paul Griffin told the Airport Board on Friday that the 25 percent cancellation rate is mostly because of the pilot shortage affecting the small commercial airline.

He said that although the cancellation rate is down, pilots end up meeting their rest requirements by the weekend and that also affects flight schedules. Griffin also said the first two weeks of June are showing good numbers.

"It's a lot better than May, so it's looking up," Griffin said.

Overall, Griffin said the year-to-date numbers show a difference of about 1,600 passengers who boarded a commercial flight compared to the previous year. Up until April, that number was at about 1,200 fewer passengers and up until March the difference was at about 880. If the trend continues, Griffin said the concern of losing federal funding will persist. The airport receives the money when it enplanes a minimum of 10,000 passengers.

The airport also has operated two reconfigured nine-passenger Beechcraft 1900 airplanes that allow less-experienced co-pilots to fly an aircraft under Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

New truck, leases

On Friday, Airport Board members got a first look at the airport's new snowplow/dump truck that was delivered in May. The truck was paid for with roughly 90 percent of the funding the airport received for meeting the 10,000-passenger enplanement mark last year. Griffin said the truck's assembly is almost complete, and he is waiting for a plate to be adjusted in order to properly hook up an 18-foot plow blade.

The Riverton City Council and Airport Board also approved airport lease agreements for Sky Aviation Corp., Bureau of Land Management and Wind River AG. The agencies will pay for space at the Riverton Regional Airport which will add nearly $10,000 in annual revenue to the city's airport fund.

Director of Administrative Services for the city Courtney V. Bohlender said the airport has almost 30 lease agreements with other businesses or entities that rent space for their equipment or aircraft. The new leases will have non-commercial storage and maintenance aircrafts onsite, Bohlender said. BLM will have its Fire SEAT Based Aircraft Operation at the airport location.

The leases were set for one-year terms with four consecutive terms for renewal at 17 cents per square foot. The council also approved the signing of a FAA grant for the Airport Improvement Program 38 to assess the effects on Runway 10, Runway End Identification Lights and Runway 28 Localizer at the airport. The assessment is required by the FAA for the 2015 projects that will correct the non-standard runway longitudinal gradient on Runway 10. The city will pay its 2.5 percent share from the total $117,000 project cost.

Airport Task Force

Airport Task Force member Stephanie Kessler reported to the board that the group has met with representatives from other airports in the state.

"We have been doing a lot of outreach and education to learn from other communities," Kessler said.

The group was formed to develop reliable air service and recently met with representatives from the Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody.

"That was very educational for us to learn about how they are doing their air service agreements," she said, adding that they have now negotiated direct flights in the summer between Cody and Chicago.

She said Cody's carrier, United Airlines, does not expect to fill up quickly those Chicago flights before they are scheduled to depart from the airport. They plan to meet with others from the Jackson Hole Airport at their next meeting at 2 p.m. July 10 in Dubois.

Kessler also said the Aeronautics Division of the Wyoming Department of Transportation is "diligently pursuing" other airlines and services after they presented a formal request in April.

"We do know that one airline is taking a serious look," she said. "We're just waiting to hear back ... They're doing their number crunching."

The next Airport Board meeting is scheduled for July 18 at Riverton City Hall.

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Riverton Regional Airport