Why Is It More To Fly Out Of Great Falls & Other Airport Facts
Airports are an important part of every community they serve. They have a financial impact on their communities as well as create well-paying jobs. There is a lot to know about airports.
Tim Conway, the Aeronautics Administrator for the Montana Department of Transportation gave me some great information about airports.
Primary vs Non Primary
Primary airports are commercial service airports that have more than 10,000 passenger boardings per year. So, enplanements are what is used to establish the level of federal aid eligibility for an airport as opposed to total passenger served. Often you'll see those numbers in conflict because enplanements and deplanements together are obviously a much larger number than just enplanements alone. So I recently saw that, Bozeman enplanements in 2022 were 1,135,681, but the total passengers served was 2,264,697. So when you talk about primary airports and we talk about that 10,000 passenger boardings threshhold, those are enplanements only.
Definition of Enplanement (as per Law Insider)
Enplanement means a domestic, territorial, or international revenue passenger who boards an aircraft at an airport in scheduled or nonscheduled service of aircraft in intrastate, interstate, or Foreign Service and includes an in-transit passenger who boards an international flight that transits an airport in the United States for non traffic purposes.
Non primary commercial service airports are the ones that have at least 2500 enplanements, but not more than the 10,000 in enplanements. What's important about whether it's a primary airport or a non primary airport, and we're talking about commercial service here, is their entitlements. So a primary airport gets $1 million in federal entitlements and then a non primary airport would get a kind of sliding range. The bottom end is $150,000. And then there's an opportunity to go up to about $600,000. So that's one of the places that we draw a line in our commercial service airports. The other place we draw a line is if they're part of the Essential Air Service program, which is a federally subsidized program that started in 1978 when the industry was deregulated by the government. It provides a subsidy on a per passenger basis to an airline to provide service into a community.
That one's really interesting because Butte is a primary airport. It had almost 19,000 enplanements last year, but they're also an EAS airport, so they have subsidized service there. There's two other airports that jump in and out of primary, non primary and those are the Yellowstone Airport at West Yellowstone and the Sidney Airport over in the eastern part of the state. So their enplanements vary enough to cause them to jump in and out. Yellowstone Airport again is unique even within that because they're the only airport in the state that's specifically recognized as achieving primary status with only 8000 enplanements instead of the ten (10,000). That's a recognition by the federal government that they're a seasonal only airport. So because they're seasonal, the FAA recognizes that they're not going to get as many passengers, but in fact, they may have the same rate of enplanements as other primary airports. And in fact, they do some months of the year, they actually enplane a higher rate of passengers than, say, Butte does. But Butte has more passengers and enplanements throughout the rest of the year. EAS- In addition to Butte Airport and Yellowstone Airport both being essential air service, Sidney, Glendive, Wolf Point, Glasgow and Havre are also in the essential air service program.
How Many Primary Airports in Montana
Today there's seven primary airports, which are all your big ones Bozeman, Missoula, Kalispell, Butte, Helena, Great Falls and Billings, and of those seven, Butte participates in the essential air service program. So that makes Butte Airport unique as one of the "big seven" because they enplane enough passengers to make them a primary airport but they also participate in the Essential Air Service program. Why are they in essential air service? Well, they meet the criteria for essential air service, so they stay in the essential service program.
Why does it cost so much to fly out of Great Falls compared to Bozeman
I am not the expert on this, but I do know that airfares are driven almost entirely by the airlines. And the airlines analyze a number of factors when they're considering what to charge in a particular market. Bozeman, for instance, has a number of competing airlines. And so, to be viable in that market, each airline needs to be competitive with the others. Quite honestly, you take Butte, which only has a single airline serving a single city outside of Montana, (Butte to Salt Lake City). And that's a pretty small market and then it varies from there. Helena has a little bit more and I think Great Falls has even more. The other thing that can drive prices is local fees. The airports can charge, landing fees, and they have Passenger Facility Charges. They can charge a number of different fees, but generally they don't add much to the cost of a ticket. And generally, I believe they're fairly similar from airport to airport. So you're really looking at the airlines and their algorithms that drive the price of any particular airline ticket to any particular community from Montana.
How many airports in Montana
The number I have is 127 public use airports, and that breaks down into 81 paved 43 turf. There's one heliport, two seaports, and of those127 public use airports, 61 are federal aid airports. And then we've also got, and this is a real rough number because we don't have a way to really keep track, but we estimate there's about 350 private airports in Montana.
READ WHAT AIRPORTS ARE THE TOP IN MT HERE
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TAKE A LOOK AT THESE PLANES AT THE MILITARY AIRPLANE PARK
Several Retired Planes at the military Airplane Park
You can get close to most of these planes
The stories these planes could tell
There is a nice parking area that is free to use
The Military Airplane Park is free of charge to enjoy
There are several different Airplanes to View
It is located on Gore Hill- just past the MANG gate
Go through the airport drop off and continue to the exit, that is where you find the park
Vintage Michigan Airports