Jun 6, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterThe Riverton Regional Airport board is looking to improve reliability for patrons, but members also are determined to increase marketing efforts to attract more travelers to the local runway.
Current boarding numbers show 3,682 people boarded planes at RRA over the past year --more than 420 fewer than the year before.
Board member Dean Peranteaux asked for marketing advised from Great Lakes Airlines CEO Chuck Howell during a meeting May 17. Howell recommended simply promoting the existence of the airport.
"I think you have to keep educating your community," Howell said. "You do have to keep the awareness, and you do have to continually beat the drum that the most important highway in your community is the runway. ... Get people interested in the airport as a whole."
He added that Riverton appears on route maps on the American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines websites.
"It's probably free marketing that you don't know about," he said.
Peranteaux suggested that Great Lakes advertise locally. Monica Taylor, the airline's director of public relations, said she would be interested in that approach, and she also talked about partnering with the city during popular events.
Taylor suggested that the board share accurate flight data with the community through presentations for local service groups.
"When you look at ... the number of flights that actually operate, the stats are not as bad as what the perception is," Taylor said. "We truly don't cancel that many flights on a controllable basis."
To further improve service, Howell recommended the airport build a hangar that could hold aircrafts overnight.
Currently, Great Lakes planes that stay in Riverton overnight are parked outside, and in the winter they require several checks and de-icing procedures before they can take off.
"In the communities where we do have hangars we see marked improvement because (the plane) comes out and it's dry," Howell said. "We start the morning on time."
The hangars currently at the airport are privately owned by general aviation pilots. Officials reportedly have discussed leasing one of those structures for commercial use at the airport.
Howell said the airport also could hire an on-site aircraft mechanic who would be able to handle local maintenance issues. Airport division manager Paul Griffin said liability issues were a cause for concern, but Howell said Great Lakes would take on the liability by employing the local mechanic.
"We're not looking for them to do heavy checks on the airplane and we're not looking for them to do engine changes," Howell said. "But a lot of times you've got a light bulb out or something minor, (and) all it requires is a mechanic's signature to say, 'Yes, it's safe to go back and fly out.' We don't have that ability here."
He said more than half of the airports Great Lakes serves have a mechanic on the property.
Pay for parking?
Public services director Bill Urbigkit pointed out that other area airports receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue by charging for parking. In Riverton, however, airport parking is free.
Howell advised Urbigkit to avoid parking lot fees, calling RRA's free parking option "a very attractive benefit."
Board member Bruce Kamminga said the airport could build a separate, fenced parking lot for people who want to pay to store their RVs, campers, boats or other vehicles. Urbigkit said he would look into that option in an effort to help pay for operations at the airport, which receives an annual subsidy from the city.
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