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Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Airport Adds to Growth, Quality of Life

Airport boosts economy, enhances livability

By Phil Newman on August 13, 2015

A SkyWest airplane arrives at the Rock Springs Sweetwater County Airport.
Rock Springs / Brian McCord

When Devon Brubaker first toured Rock Springs as a job candidate during a weekend visit from Dayton, Ohio, he saw what many others had already seen and continue to see: the present vitality and future potential of the community.

“During that tour, it was clear that there is so much opportunity here,†says Brubaker, who became airport manager of Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Airport (RKS) in May 2015. “With everything that it has to offer, not just in an economic development sense, but also in a quality of life sense, it’s a great place for my family to live and a great place to work.”

Brubaker’s family includes two college-age children, a freshman in high school and a 4-year old.

“We’re excited to be here and to become part of such a special community,†he says.

General and Commercial Aviation

With the dedicated leadership of the airport board, a commercial partner in SkyWest Airlines (since February), two daily commercial flights to Denver, and a growing private and corporate general aviation presence, RKS is poised to become even more pivotal in the months and years ahead.

Building on a “solid foundation†as an “economic driver,†Brubaker notes that after a period of some transition, the airport’s potential to enhance and improve is wide open.

“We have some work to do to continue to grow our airport and make it an even better asset to our local community, and we are ready to do it,†he says.

Of the airport’s $30 million economic impact, fully half comes from general aviation – a critical but often overlooked aspect compared with the more attention-getting commercial side, Brubaker says. Two key measures are cause for optimism: Fuel sales for general aviation are on the rise, and “load factor†on the commercial side is increasing, from 48 percent of seats filled to 57 percent over one recent two-month period. Brubaker’s goal is an average of 75 percent filled; “at that point the air service becomes self-sustainable,†he says.

Poised for Growth

The board’s leadership is equally upbeat.

“I see the airport as an anchor point for business travel in and out of the county, both commercially and in general aviation,†says Jim Wamsley, chair of the airport board and fire chief of the Rock Springs Fire Department. “It provides an immense amount of access for local industry as well as potential new business ventures into the county.”

The board is committed to strengthening the airport and boosting its services, Wamsley adds.

“I would like to eventually see our flight offerings expanded somewhere back to what we’ve had historically,” Wamsley says. “I would also like to see improvements on the general aviation side, more utilization of the hangars, and potentially even see some new hangars built.”

Even long after his initial tour of the town, Brubaker firmly believes that the sky is indeed the limit for Rock Springs and for the airport, both on the private side and on the commercial front.

“It’s important to recognize that we have a solid foundation in place,†Brubaker says. “We have two very reliable flights a day to Denver. The more we fill them up, the more opportunity we will have to grow, and attract other airlines or services to additional destinations.”

 

With everything that it has to offer, not just in an economic development sense, but also in a quality of life sense, it’s a great place for my family to live and a great place to work.”
Devon Brubaker
Airport Manager of Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Airport (RKS)
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