SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. — Airport officials gave a sigh of relief this week after a final calculation of boardings at Western Nebraska Regional Airport showed that more than 10,000 boardings occurred in 2012.
On Wednesday, Darwin Skelton, airport director, said his official count for 2012 shows that 10,264 people boarded flights from the airport.
Because the airport reached the 10,000 mark, it is eligible for $1 million from the federal Airport Improvement Program. Airports that don't make the requirement receive $150,000.
The money can be used only to make safety upgrades or to purchase equipment used in ensuring the facility is safe for passengers and airlines.
Air ambulance flights helped the airport reach 10,000 boardings.
The EagleMed air ambulance service began operating at the airport in September.
Skelton said that during its first four months of operation, EagleMed had approximately 72 flights with nearly 240 passengers that can be counted as boardings.
Assuming that number is an average, Skelton said, the business could add approximately 1,000 boardings a year for the airport.
In addition, Skelton said, he began keeping track of other air ambulance flights that originated from the airport through Valley Ambulance.
He tallied other charter flights, which included approximately 270 boardings.
However, he didn't include that number in the 10,264 because he is not sure whether the FAA will allow those boardings to be counted.
The main boardings came from Great Lakes Airlines; the commercial carrier recorded 8,915 boardings. Casino flights included 547 boardings, and miscellaneous charters, including EagleMed and other medical flights, showed 804 boardings.
“When you look at 2011 and we missed it (the 10,000 mark) by 88 passengers and 136 in 2010, it's heartbreaking. We basically left $1.7 million on the table in two years due to a shortage of 224 passengers,” Skelton said.
“But luckily we were able to receive a moratorium on those two years and received the federal dollars.”