Oct. 15—CHEYENNE — The Cheyenne Regional Airport Board announced Thursday that commercial airline flights to and from the Capital City are set to resume on Nov. 1.
The airport will service two United Express flights a day to and from Denver International Airport, and have more than 100 seats available on each trip. It was made possible by the completion of phase two of runway construction, which will continue over the next year.
"We are committed to having the runway open and safe at that point in time," said CRA General Manager Nathan Barton.
Delays due to the pandemic and supply chain issues have been a major setback for the airport in recent months.
Tim Barth, director of aviation at Cheyenne Regional Airport, said this is because the construction of the runway has not been immune from nationwide inventory shortages. Throughout the year, the airport struggled to find concrete suppliers, and the eventual transportation of materials was impacted by a lack of truck drivers.
He said what was meant to be a three-month project quickly turned into six and a half.
But as phase two of the project is completed and commercial air service returns, the future of the airport is still at risk.
The Federal Aviation Administration has allocated approximately $60 million for the construction of the airport runway in Cheyenne, but it will be administered in doses over the next five years. With not enough funding up front to complete the project, the airport is in jeopardy for shutting down twice more and delaying its grand reopening.
U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., addressed panelists at the Senate Commerce Committee meeting last month in Washington and asked for support from federal officials to readjust the timeline of funds dispersal. This would allow the airport to receive the full payment within a year and close the runway only once more.
"Without certain Federal Aviation Administration funds being expedited, the airport will not be able to offer commercial air service for the foreseeable future, maybe a year or two years," Lummis said. "That would make it the only state in the nation whose capital city has no commercial air service."
This impacts not only the residents of Laramie County and surrounding areas, but members of the Wyoming Air National Guard and airmen stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, since the nuclear missile base has no runway.
Barth said the board is not privy to continuing conversations in the nation's capital concerning the funds, but Lummis and her staff will update them by the end of the year.
Conversations regarding the financial status of the airport are not just happening on the East Coast, but in Laramie County, as well. The airport is included in two propositions on the sixth-penny sales tax ballot, which are not related to the construction of the runway.
More than $800,000 in funding is listed on Proposition 3 for the development of a larger parking lot for the airport. Barth said when the new terminal was built, only 60 spaces were allotted for parking, and it isn't feasible with two flights a day starting next month.
Proposition 14 is completely dedicated to the airport and requires a much larger investment by the community. Close to $2.25 million would be used by the city of Cheyenne to fund the minimum revenue guarantee for the airline.
The airport is prohibited by federal law from participating in the minimum revenue guarantee. It is required by smaller communities to offer a form of insurance to the commercial airline in case the route is not as successful as projected.
Sixty-percent of the funding has already come from the state, and the rest falls on the city and county. Laramie County has paid its portion, and the city would be making up the final 20%.
"If the citizens want to see it happen," said Barth, "we have to provide that security blanket."
Residents of the county will have the opportunity to vote Nov. 2 for the two propositions. Barth said he has seen the community rally around the airport in past elections, and he hopes they continue to support the board's endeavors once again.
Jasmine Hall is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's education reporter. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @jhrose25.