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Riverton airport enplanement figures on target for fed mandate

Sep 26, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Ten thousand passengers a year have to board at the facility for it to receive federal funding for maintenance and operations costs.

The Riverton Regional Airport is close to hitting the 10,000-person enplanement mark required to receive federal funding for airport maintenance and operations this year.

Airport division manager Paul Griffin on Friday said the airport counted 9,144 passengers boarding planes this year up until August. He noted that the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays will most likely help boost the 2013 enplanement number before the end of the year.

Last year, only 8,981 people boarded planes for commercial flights through August.

"I'm a little bit thrilled with the fact that we're ahead of last year when we started out behind," airport board chairman Jim Matson said during a regular meeting last week.

The airport still operates both the 19-seat Beech 1900 aircraft and the 30-passenger Brasilia 120, though in the months of June, July and August the Brasilia took over most of the enplanement activity.

Board member Bruce Kamminga asked Griffin to include additional information about other runway users in his monthly enplanement report.

"It does reveal how active our airport is in the private sector as well as the public," Kamminga said.

He thinks the information could help add to the tourist advertising the board is would like to develop.

Fewer pilots

While attending the 11th Annual Airline Rendezvous in Jackson, Griffin said representatives from Great Lakesand Sky West airlines spoke about a pilot shortage resulting from an increase in flight hour requirements through the Federal Aviation Administration.

The new law requiring 1,500 flying hours for pilots went into effect Aug. 1. In recent reports, Great Lakes representatives said they had to drop pilots who did not have the 1,500 hours.

"They're still trying to figure out how to address that," Griffin said.

He added that Great Lakes is continuing to struggle with fuel costs. Griffin said airline representatives blamed an increase in ticket prices on the high costs of fuel.

The Cheyenne-based airliner operates in Riverton, Sheridan, Worland and Cheyenne. Great Lakes is also part of the federal Essential Air Service program that helps small towns get air service and connect to larger airports. The law emerged after an airplane crash that killed 50 people in Buffalo, N.Y. in 2009.

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