Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport
Ready to Soar
Business View Magazine interviews Todd Chatfield, Executive Director of Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport, for our focus on General Aviation in the U.S.
Situated just four miles outside the city limits of Gillette in Campbell County, Wyoming, the Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport (GCC) has convenient ties to the urban hub. The region is known for its contribution to America’s energy needs, and the City of Gillette has been dubbed the “Energy Capital of the Nation”. It is this vast source of coal and natural gas, with its many business opportunities, that drives most flights into the airport.
“Most of our traffic into the airport is business related – I\’d estimate 85% business and the rest is for leisure,” says Todd Chatfield, Executive Director at Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport. The majority of flights are general aviation (GA), with executives regularly flying in and out. However, the airport is also serviced by a commercial airline, SkyWest, which is a division of United Carriers. Currently, GCC connects only to Denver but before the pandemic, it also flew to Salt Lake City. At the moment, there are two round trip flights a day made by SkyWest, ramping up to three during their busier seasons.
Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport has two runways: Runway 16/34 is 7,550 x 150 feet and runway 3/21 is a crosswind alternative landing strip that is 5,800 x 75 feet wide. The airport’s Fixed Base Operator (FBO) – Flightline – offers refuelling, oxygen for GA traffic, mechanics, hangar space, flight training, aircraft rentals, chartered flights, and tours. On the non-aviation services side, Flightline also provides catering, courtesy transportation, and pilot supplies – a full suite offering. Other businesses at the airport include Habitat Management, which is involved in reclamation and mining services. Guardian Flight air ambulance service also has an office at the airport. They are a chapter of Pilots for Christ that will fly patients who can’t afford the bills to doctors.
With passengers on commercial flights going through the terminal, the airport needs to meet certain standards, which means the building is constantly being upgraded. As Chatfield reports, “It’s been in service since 1997, which means we’re undergoing upgrades when required. The security area was redone five years ago and PSA screening space has been remodeled. Today, our terminal is arguably the nicest one in the state of Wyoming.”
The airport management team laid out their master plan three years ago, with several projects outlined, including The construction of a new FBO building; additional ramp space; adding a parallel taxiway to the main runway. In 2024, the airport plans on completely rehabilitating runway 16/34, and depending on the budget, they will see if there is enough funding to revamp the crosswind runway. Almost all the construction projects at the airport utilize automatic investment plan (AIP) money, as well as grants. Also, the FAA has also given some discretionary money for runway rehabilitation projects.
Being located in Wyoming, the airport requires large maintenance equipment, such as snowploughs. These are also obtained through grant funding. “We just had our FAA inspection,” says Chatfield, “and the inspector said that for a small airport of our size we have some of the better equipment he’s seen. All of it is in pristine condition.”
As with all regional airports in the U.S., there is a lack of hangar space for private aircraft. While some of the on-field operators like Flightline may have an opening or two, Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport is for the most part full. Luckily, there is enough room on the property to add new hangar spaces, and the airport has the infrastructure, taxiways, and ramps to accommodate these additional projects. In spite of delays brought about by the pandemic, parties are again interested in developing hangars at the airport.
GCC is owned by Campbell County and is usually staffed by ten employees, although, they are down to eight. They are currently looking for new employees and are starting to collaborate with Gillette Community College, the local educational institution, to train airport mechanics. Chatfield attests, “I’ve been in this position for 90 days and already met the president of the college – hopefully that will get the new course for the airport mechanic program off the ground.” The local community is behind the training program, having voted for the course to be available at a local college, and taxpayers will fund any shortfalls in the budget. Chatfield adds, “It’s unheard of in a conservative state, but they saw the potential and the need to keep it funded and going. It’s wonderful to bring more aviation programs to more people.”
Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport’s main role is to keep the community connected to the rest of the country. It’s an economic lifeline for many companies in the area who operate all over the world. Once a year, the management at the airport opens the facility up to the community with walk-throughs to showcase the planes. They also invite car and motorbike clubs to do meet-ups at the airfield. In addition, they invite the local schools and preschools to participate in guided tours of the FBO buildings and the terminal. Chatfield elaborates, “We also allow them to meet TSA, our partners, rental car staff, airline crew, firefighters, and the FBO sends their mechanics.” The tour showcases all the facilities at the airport, which includes the fire trucks. These extensive tours are done to entice children into a career in aviation.
Also stationed at the airport is the Civil Air Patrol. They are involved with the Young Eagles and this group is very active. The push to get more children involved is crucial, as the entire aviation field is looking for new talent, which doesn’t just include pilots, but also mechanics, support, ground staff, marshals, and many more related occupations.
As for infrastructure projects, in the last two years, GCC connected itself to a fibre connection, which has helped with internet speeds. On the water management front, they are planning to sink their own water wells in 2022. This will see them connecting to the new regional water supply and building out their own sewer lagoon. By tapping into the local water supply they can get access to it any time they need, and for future projects on the site. All these initiatives are being undertaken to accommodate new growth at the airport.
In the next budget, management will be discussing the need for an all-new HPAC system in the terminal and HEPA filters to help combat any type of pathogen. This includes a new pumping system for water supply and a lift station for sewers. They’ve already started setting aside money for this budget and funds will be taken from the 2022/2023 year.
The airport\’s economic development corporation meets on a monthly basis. At these meetings they outline requests for proposals (RFPs), to show what Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport can offer.
The goal is to attract more aviation-related businesses – with nearly 1000 acres at the airfield, currently, only 300 are being utilized. Which means there’s huge potential for growth.
Looking to the future, Chatfield shares, “Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport would love to add an additional destination to our flights, but with the pilot shortage this is a hard proposal. However, in 18 months this might not be an issue.” There is also new interest in reviving a monthly meeting with industry leaders, city-county economic development, and the airport, where all parties share insights and ideas of improving progress. At the end of the day, Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport is ready to soar!