Williston awaits opening of new airport
March is Aviation Appreciation Month in Williston, as declared by Mayor Howard Klug in a City Commissioner's meeting several weeks ago.
This is because of the impact North Dakota's billion dollar air-travel industry has on its communities.
The Williston airport plays a big part in those numbers and a new facility could increase them.
The 72 year-old airport was built to board roughly 8,000 passengers a year. Just in the month of February, more than 6,000 travelers came through this facility and the new airport will provide conveniences the current location can't.
Passenger Akeeoo Rhoden is on his way to Los Angeles. He says, "It just makes it easier for me to get in and out of here. I don't have to search for a way to get somewhere else. My company is right up the road; it's right here. Just easier to get to."
Williston's Sloulin Field International Airport has had an economic impact on the community of more than $209 million. General aviation aircraft bring in about 62,000 visitors to Williston every year, according to the most recent Economic Impact Study done by the State of North Dakota.
Staff says the airport is running smoothly, but there are some areas that make it evident that there is more demand than the area's design can handle.
"Whoever I was riding with dropped me off, and was kind of disappointed. He didn't know where to park, so we kind of held up the line in the middle of the road there," stated Katie Guttormson, passenger on her way to Minneapolis.
Delta just announced they will be adding a third daily flight to the small airport's booked-up schedule. This will provide people with more schedule flexibility, as it is important for people who use air travel for work.
"Our industries rely heavily on air travel to get to and from our relatively rural area, whether that be the oil and gas industry, the agricultural industry, as well as the healthcare industry, who utilize our facility on a daily basis," explained Anthony Dudas, City of Williston airport director.
They expect the Embraer ERJ-145 and Bombardier CRJ200 aircrafts to become even busier as the opening of the new airport gets closer.
Dudas says they are reaching a huge milestone in the construction of the new Williston Basin International Airport. In April, the commercial terminal and fire station are expected to be completely enclosed.
That same month, 18 other construction projects will start or continue in order to stay on track for the opening day in October.