Critical Air Service Team and the Community
[This article originally appeared as a “Community Perspectives” article in The Sheridan Press, July 18, 2015.]
The Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce partners and collaborates with many organizations, agencies, and private businesses that work hard every day in the best interest of our area. One such example is the community-wide stakeholder group known as the Critical Air Service Team in which we take part, along with Forward Sheridan and others.
CAST is comprised of folks from Sheridan and Johnson counties and has been working for years on the critically important issue of air service. This issue has recently taken on a whole new level of urgency, and what we know is that although the CAST stakeholders are passionate and proactive in working on this issue, we can’t do it alone.
CAST has engaged in discussions with several carriers over the last several months, but because of the overwhelming challenges most airlines are experiencing today from new regulations and pilot shortage, none of these discussions netted favorable results for Sheridan. However, recent discussions between CAST and Denver Air Connections (a subsidiary of Key Lime Air) have given us a renewed sense of hope, and just this week, we submitted an application to the Wyoming Department of Transportation, Aeronautics Division, for an Air Service Enhancement Grant.
So now the process is under way, and though we remain optimistic, there are still many details that need discussed and figured out before we can say for certain that we will have air service to and from Denver beginning in November.
First, we need to make sure the initial funding is in place and that contract negotiations are able to move forward. The airport will need to be successful in getting TSA to re-federalize the airport terminal and the FAA must also provide their approval. Also, CAST will need to reach out to the private sector for additional financial commitments.
But perhaps the most critical detail we need to figure out is how to fill the seats! It’s fantastic if we get reliable, consistent air service again, and everyone will love the idea that folks can fly in and out of Sheridan, but in order to lessen the revenue guarantee burden and ensure the sustainability of air service in our community, it really will be up to all of us to fill those seats.
It’ll mean changing habits from driving to Casper or Billings to now driving to Sheridan airport. It’ll mean no more parking fees or overnight lodging. It’ll mean no more hazardous long-distance travel. It’ll mean supporting the local economy. It’ll mean more time with family before ehading out on that business trip. It’ll mean more conferences and conventions coming to town. It’ll mean more tourists to spend money in our businesses. It’ll mean doing our part to think local first.
The Chamber is proud to be a part of CAST, and we embrace the passion and the get-it-done attitude that our fellow stakeholders embody. But as I said earlier, we can’t do it alone. We need the community, its support and its commitment.
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