Central Wyoming Regional Airport in Riverton is on the cusp of hitting 10,000 enplanements for the year, a full month and a half earlier than last year. The benchmark is critical as commercial airports need to hit the 10,000 passenger boarding mark to receive $1 million in Federal Aviation Administration funds for airport improvements.
Paul Griffin, CWRA’s airport division director, said unofficially by their count, the mark was achieved in the last week with 10,156 passengers, but the official enplanement number is comprised of paying passengers only, and does not count for air rewards tickets, comp tickets and such. At any rate, the airport will satisfy that benchmark early this month.
Missy White, chair of the Fremont Air Service Team, or FAST, said the addition of a second afternoon flight during the summer certainly helped the enplanement number, but whether that was the reason for the faster enplanements is just a guess. A good guess, she said, but still a guess. As it stands right now, White said the second flight will go away over the winter months. “We know that folks appreciate and use that second flight and we look forward to when it comes back seven days a week, but that will be sometime in the future,” she said. “It is great to see how much use the airport is getting, and it keeps reminding me not only how helpful the service is, but how it is a needed service for the community.” White, who is also a member of the Lander City Council, said the service is critical for local businesses. “Business travel is still required and if our local businesses don’t have that option, they would not be here. It is also a needed service for medical travel and for family visits. We’re able to provide that.”
White said the state’s capacity purchase agreement – which has guaranteed flights for Riverton, Rock Springs, Gillette and Sheridan – has been the reason Riverton still has commercial air service. “There are communities all across the country that are larger than we are that have lost service,” she said. “The relationship we have with SkyWest and the capacity agreement have kept us flying.”
What worries White? “People who don’t fly always ask why they should support the airport. If they don’t use it directly, the doctor they go to, the bank they go to, the college they attend, would not be here without the airport. We almost lost a bank several years ago without good service. Even if a person does not fly, there is a benefit to them in a secondary or tertiary manner that serves as an economic driver to Fremont County.”
‘Wings and Wheels’ on the way
One event that will allow the public to get to know their local airport more is coming this weekend. “Wings and Wheels” will be held at CWRA this coming Saturday with numerous events, including a fly-in, a classic car show, food, entertainment and more. The event, held last year at Lander, will now alternate between Lander and Riverton. “By combining forces, we can produce a better fly-in each year,” Griffin said. “We’ll have representation from the local Experimental Aircraft Owners and Operators, a military aircraft is coming in from Idaho, and I’ve distributed information about the event to every airport in Wyoming and adjoining states.” Griffin said there hasn’t been a fly-in at Riverton for about a dozen years, so he’s hoping for a good public turnout. He said the Riverton hot air balloons will be there selling tethered rides for $10 early on Saturday and a parade of aircraft will be held with each being identified as to make and model and what the aircraft was made for. “We’ll have planes in the sky all day long.”
The fly-in begins at 8 a.m. with the presentation of the colors and the singing of the National Anthem and recognition for all public emergency services and military.
One special event will be held Sunday. Youth from the age of eight years but not 18 or above may sign up for the Young Eagles program on Saturday, who then will have a chance to take a plane ride Sunday and get to know more about flying.
It goes without saying that this will be the largest event to be held at the Central Wyoming Regional Airport since the eclipse, when every available space at the airfield was filled with visiting pilots.