Thanks to a draft master plan unveiled last week, Yellowstone Regional Airport has a fresh perspective on its future.
The plan presented at a Nov. 13 open house by representatives from Morrison-Maierle outlines recommended improvements the airport should explore over the next 20 years. The primary goal of the Airport Master Plan Update is to serve as a planning guide for future capital expenditures at the airport.
It appears the most likely avenue of the change at the airport will be expansions to the terminal building and parking area.
The parking lot will be the first project from the master plan that will receive attention as 300 spaces will be added this summer to the south of the existing lot – an 85 percent increase in parking capacity. Additionally, 150 more spaces will be added in the near future.
Within the master plan are also recommendations for an increase to the holding room where people wait to board after passing through security, expansion of the baggage area, additional gates and a larger concessions area.
“We’ll need more concessions for an expanded hold room,” Mike Carlson, a principal planner with Morrison Maierle, said.
In the past year, the nonsecure dining area occupied by Cody Coffee Roasters was connected to the secure holding area, where that business also serves food.
“The central kitchen is really conducive to bilateral serving,” Carlson said.
The holding area growth would likely expand to the west side of the terminal, where new gates could also be installed. Currently that room only fits 100 people.
“There’s summer days, a lot of them where that room is packed and at capacity,” Carlson said.
YRA is the third busiest airport in Wyoming but still well behind Casper and Jackson.
A larger baggage claim and new office area would be built to the southwest of the existing building.
Although possible runway expansions were mentioned there are limited opportunities for this on YRA property, and would likely require costly investment or relocation of Beacon Hill Road to allow runway growth to the northeast. The property is also wedged in by the Greybull Highway to the south.
But the plan also mentioned that an influx of larger, 70-person jets would necessitate a need for new runways.
In October, YRA had a 31.6 percent increase in travelers when compared to the same month in 2018, the fifth consecutive month of record enplanements at the airport.
Last summer was the busiest on record in YRA history with record months from June-September.
“We’re doing very, very good,” Bob Hooper, YRA general manager said at an October board meeting.
The airport recently signed a use and operating agreement with Delta’s SkyWest Airlines to operate out of the airport this summer at a rate of $3,500 a month, an agreement that includes a 2.5 percent annual price increase per year.
Adjustment to the taxiways and new runway approaches is also recommended to be considered into the future. In 2017, British daily newspaper The Telegraph ranked YRA as the fourth hardest U.S. airport to fly into.
“That beautiful scenery comes with a price,” Carlson said.
Last year YRA applied with the Federal Aviation Administration for a southern approach route to the airport, passing by the Shoshone National Forest and Wind River Mountains to be used during inclement weather.
Relocation of car wash for rental car services was also identified as a high priority.
Cody Mayor Matt Hall questioned the presenters about possible airport relocation in the next 50 years if city growth warrants it, a topic that was discussed when the last master plan was released in 2005. Doing such a thing is no cheap endeavor. Williston, N.D. recently performed this for its new airport which will cost $273 million.
Although presenters did not see a foreseeable need for this, they said Powell would be the most likely location for a new site.
Morrison-Maierle, the winning engineering firm on the project, bid around $400,000 to perform the master plan. Funding for the plan includes grants from the FAA and aeronautics division of the Wyoming Division of Transportation.
In turn, Morrison-Maierle had to spend nearly $100,000 for an aerial survey used to compile information for the project.
The master plan will be finalized based on public comments, YRA Planning Advisory Committee input and YRA staff recommendations in the coming months, with finalization planned for the spring.
The YRA board will use the master plan as a road map moving forward and will be the ultimate decision makers as far as what actually happens and when at the airport.
To view the master plan draft visit flyyra.com/yra-master-plan/.