Airport over critical 10,000 boarding figure

Despite continued issues at Great Lakes Aviation with canceled and delayed flights, boardings at the Western Nebraska Regional Airport have guaranteed the Scotts Bluff County Airport Authority will have a million dollars in federal safety funds to work with in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Airport Authority Board Chair Don Overman told KNEB News Thursday the airport had over 10,000 boardings for the 2013 calendar year at the end of November and was over 10,600 when the board met Wednesday. A minimum of 10,000 boardings is needed on an annual basis to receive the million dollars in federal funding.

Overman praised the Great Lakes staff for a "remarkable job" in rebooking passenger on other flights when there were issues with planes and pilot hours that caused canceled flights. Overman says conversations with Essential Air Service personnel suggest a new federal rule may be implemented next year requiring minimum passenger levels for subsidized communities, which would reduce the number of EAS communities. He says that would free up planes and pilots for Great Lakes, the largest essential air service provider in the country, and improve service to Scottsbluff.

The Scottsbluff to Denver route is up for bid next spring and it is possible Great Lakes may have a competitor for the route in Sky West airlines, which Overman says has expressed interest.

Overman says the federal safety money has helped fund $20 million in improvements at the airport since the new terminal was built in 2005, and he says it will be even more critical in the upcoming years as the airport plans to place new overlays on all of its runways.

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