Apparently "the sky's the limit" when it comes to area residents taking advantage of flying from Alpena via the airport's new carrier, SkyWest Airlines.
September numbers released last week show 1,325 emplanements at the Alpena County Regional Airport on SkyWest, compared to 1,051 last year. That is a 26 percent increase. Just as important, it speaks well to the public's acceptance of the new carrier, which Mayor Matt Waligora, county commissioners and many others fought hard to secure. There was some concern that after SkyWest was in place, residents might not take full advantage of the new service. As September numbers reveal, that does not appear to be the case.
Airport Manager Billi McRoberts said in a newspaper story regarding September numbers she was especially pleased to see the confidence local residents showed in the new carrier. For airport managers, the magic number of emplanements each year is 10,000, as if that figure is reached, it releases $1 million from the federal government in subsidies to be used to airport improvements and projects. Otherwise, the feds award $150,000 annually.
In 2011 the local airport surpassed the 10,000 number, an achievement that had not been reached in a decade. McRoberts is hopeful, with SkyWest now here, that number is attainable this year as well. With uncertainty earlier this year over air service, emplanements are running behind last year's numbers by 310. But, with a reliable air carrier now in place, she believes the support the community showed SkyWest in September will continue on. If Alpena were to surpass the 10,000 mark two years in a row, it would be quite an achievement and show just how far the community has progressed in making Alpena a priority in travel planning.
In addition, it would be a strong testimony for SkyWest officials to see that their investment in Alpena was a wise and financially sound one.