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Airport clobbers passenger goal

$1M federal subsidy secured with enplanement totals

ALPENA — After waiting nearly two months for its most recent passenger total, the Alpena County Regional Airport learned it has eclipsed the 10,000-enplanement mark, which ensures the airport will receive a $1 million subsidy from the federal government next year.

An enplanement is a paying passenger flying from the airport.

On Tuesday, Airport Manager Steve Smigelski said he received two months of enplanement figures and was happy to see when the data pushed up the airport over the 10,000-enplanement target had been beat. Smigelski said he is unsure why it took much longer than normal to receive the enplanement data.

The total number of enplanements through the end of October is 10,373, Smigelski said.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the enplanement numbers had been delayed.

“This is a huge relief, and we still have two months left to go in the year, and I think if we have good months of November and December, we can reach 12,000 enplanements for the year,” Smigelski said. “That would be great.”

In September, the airport had 1,120 enplanements and another 1,240 in October. Smigelski said having solid numbers leading up to the opening of the new airport terminal under construction now is key. When the new terminal opens after the first of the year, another increase in passengers using the airport and SkyWest Airlines is possible, he said.

Next year will be an important one at the airport. Not only does the new terminal officially open with a ribbon-cutting event on Jan.16, but SkyWest’s contract is set to expire. It will be up to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to decide who will handle air service in Alpena.

Smigelski said keeping SkyWest in place is paramount, and he believes the airline will once again bid on the service when a request for proposals are issued in May.

“We’ll reach out to the airline in February or March and just get a feel of what they are thinking,” Smigelski said. “It is important for us to keep them, and I think Alpena is looking better and better to them. We have numbers that are increasing, a new terminal that will help with ground operations, and just a better process, overall. Everything we have been doing should make us appealing to the airline.”

The Alpena County Airport Committee is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the Howard Male Conference room in the county’s annex building.