Riverton Regional Airport Board members are, from left, Bruce Kamminga, Dean Peranteaux, Jim Matson, Cindy Olson and Bob Steen. (Ernie Over photo)
Part I of a series
(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Riverton Regional Airport Board is stuck between a rock and a hard place, just like passengers hoping to board one of the airport’s daily flights out of Riverton. There were 29 cancellations during November out of 94 scheduled flights. That’s one third of Great Lakes Airlines’ schedule in Riverton.
“Thirty cancellations is not acceptable in my estimation, that’s one a day,” said Airport Board Chairman Jim Matson.
Great Lakes local manager Clyde Wiesbeck told the board the news could be worse. “We are closing four stations down, but Riverton is not one them,” he announced. “We are changing our flight schedules though, and pairing Riverton with Sheridan occasionally now.” He also said the morning flight to Denver is being moved back by 30 minutes “to give pilots more rest.”
While it is an industry-wide problem that impacts not only Great Lakes and Riverton, passenger frustration is mounting and the leakage of passengers from Fremont County to other airports continues to grow, which threatens the long term sustainability of commercial air service here. Griffin said the latest study from Wyoming Aeronautics indicated the leakage out of Fremont County was “right around the 50 percent rate. People are going elsewhere, and we’re not the only airport with this problem.”
County10.com reported on the current problem facing not only Great Lakes, but all other commuter airlines as well in a report last month. Basically, the Federal Aviation Administration enacted a new rule requiring co-pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight time, up from the previous requirement of 250 hours. As a result, pilots with 1,500 hours have become hot commodities in the industry and are being snatched up by major carriers. The resulting loss of co-pilots, and pilots, has severely impacted commuters like Great Lakes, leading to pilot shortages and cancelled flights. You can read that story here.
Griffin said he has arranged for airport consultant Nick Wangler of Forecast, Inc. to be in Riverton this coming Tuesday and present a program on the current challenges facing small airports like Riverton, and the airline industry in general. “He’ll give us an idea of where airline service is going in the state. He’ll appear via a webinar at the council meeting. One of Wangler’s specialties is to “work with airports, their communities and airline partners to improve air service and passenger retention,” according to a biography Griffin provided. “He made this same presentation to WYDOT Aeronautics, and I think it would be beneficial for all of us to attend next Tuesday.”
Next in the series: How Lander’s National Outdoor Leadership School could help boost flight reliability at Riverton Regional Airport