By CRISTINA JANNEY
The Hays Regional Airport will be receiving more funds for improvements from the Federal Aviation Administration, thanks to record boardings in the 2018.
More than 12,000 passengers flew out of the airport last year.
Ovid Seifers, airport manager, said the April addition of SkyWest flights to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was the reason for the increase. Flights to Denver were also up slightly.
Since the airport exceeded 10,000 departures in 2018, it is eligible for $1 million in FFA Airport Improvement Funds in 2020. The airport barely missed the 10,000 mark last year, but a loophole will allow the airport to still receive the $1 million in FFA funding in 2019, Seifers said.
Airports that have less than 10,000 travelers receive only $150,000 annually.
The airport has a five-year improvement plan. 2019 improvements include apron and drainage improvements, concrete repair and the purchase of a new snow plow and spreader.
In 2020, the airport plans to replace lighting on the crosswind runway. The runway is currently lit by and an in-ground system that is 20 years old. Because the equipment is buried, it is more susceptible to damage from animals and the elements.
The wiring for the new system will be housed in conduits to protect it and the transformer will be above ground, which will make them easier to maintain. The lights themselves will likely be transitioned to LEDs from incandescent.
Seifers said he thought 2019 will see a slight increase in travelers, although not as significant as in 2018 when the Chicago flights were added.
“I think the City of Hays and its flying community has actively sought better service here,” he said. “They have good service here with SkyWest. The fact that you can go to Denver and O’Hare with one stop to O’Hare in Salina briefly for 30 minutes is great for a community of this size. It doesn’t happen everywhere.”
SkyWest began serving Hays passengers in 2014 with flights to Denver with 50-passenger jets.
The city of Hays in cooperation with SkyWest is offering fares to Chicago and Denver for $89 one way. Flights must be booked by Feb. 26 for flights through May 22. Flights must be booked 14 days in advance. See the airport website for more information.