Key Lime Airlines is a cargo carrier at Riverton Regional for UPS. The airport’s only commercial carrier is Great Lakes Airlines. (File photo)
(Cheyenne, Wyo.) – Great Lakes Airlines announced this week that they have suspended service to six airports, none in Wyoming, “due to the severe industry-wide pilot shortage.” Great Lakes is the only commercial air carrier at Riverton Regional Airport.
Communities losing their air service, for now, include service to and from Devils Lake and Jamestown, North Dakota; Fort Dodge and Mason City, Iowa; Ironwood, Michigan; and Thief River Falls, Minnesota.
“Due to the unintended consequences of the new congressionally mandated pilot regulatory requirements, the company feels it is in the best interest of our customers, communities, and employees to suspend service from these stations until we are able to rebuild our staff of pilots in order to provide reliable service. We deeply regret and apologize for this inconvenience,” Great Lakes CEO Charles Howell said in a statement released from the airline’s headquarters in Cheyenne.
While passenger boardings at Riverton Regional Airport, Fremont County’s only commercial airport, exceeded last year’s total and numbered over 13,700 passengers, the pilot shortage has resulted in nearly one-third of all flights into and out of Riverton being cancelled. The upset the cancellations has created resulted in Mayor Ron Warpness calling for a task force to study a possible Joint Powers Board to operate the local airport.
The task force is only in discussion at this time and no formal action has been taken.
“We are discussing the possibility of putting together a task force to look at the needs of the airport,” Warpness said Tuesday. “We’ll first be meeting with the new chairman of the airport board, Dean Peranteax, the former chairman Jim Matson and Airport Manager Paul Griffin to make sure they feel comfortable with what we’re doing.”
Warpness said it is no secret that Riverton is a countywide airport. “Everyone has a vested interest in it to make it successful. It brings in millions of dollars to the county, and we’ve invested millions into the airport,” he said.
Earlier this month, the county commissioner’s liaison to the airport board, Larry Allen, said the county’s receipt of Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) monies from Federal Mineral Royalties would most likely determine if the county could participate in a joint powers agreement. “If we don’t get those funds, our budget will be out $2.5 million.”
Just this week Congress reinstated PILT funds in the the Farm Reauthorization Bill, but the bill has not yet cleared both houses.