SHERIDAN — Fly Sheridan’s scenic flight celebration marking two years of service in Sheridan helped the airport reach the needed 10,000 enplanements by the end of the year and allowed families to take their first-time fliers up in the air to see how they handled soaring in the sky.
The Heid family made it a generational affair, bringing along the matriarch of the family down to the great-grandchildren. Justin Heid fondly remembers flying out of Sheridan throughout his life and enjoyed the reactions of his nieces and nephews during their first flights in an airplane.
Heid acknowledged that Fly Sheridan was shooting for the goal of getting all the required enplanements to receive $1 million in federal funding, but said pairing it with the celebration of two years of service and allowing people who have not flown to get on the plane and check it out was smart.
“I think it was a great opportunity to show what Sheridan has for an airplane and the company that’s flying those airplanes,” Heid said.
Christina Hoskinson Rigdon also used the free scenic flights as a test to see how her two sons, Gavin, 5, and Caleb, 2, handled a trip in the air. Both kids managed the flight well and enjoyed flying “with the ducks above the clouds.” Following the flight, the two boys experienced the view from the pilot’s seat in the cockpit while pilots answered their questions and walked them through each instrument.
Both Hoskinson Rigdon and Heid complimented the stewardess working with the new flyers.
“She did a phenomenal job of explaining to the kids and orienting it toward those first-time flyers,” Heid said.
The efforts to reach 10,000 enplanements included 39 flights between Wednesday and Sunday. Out of those flights, 1,108 passengers were flown with a 1,170 passenger capacity, putting the average flight load at 94.7 percent. The total enplanements for the 2017 year now total 10,209.
Challenges remain for the Critical Air Service Team, though. The flights from Sheridan to Denver stop in Riverton, too, to pick up passengers. If flyers from Riverton begin filling more seats on those flights, reaching the needed enplanements to receive the federal funding could become more difficult.
“When we share the ability to move 60 people in and out of the community, if Riverton starts to do better, we have less of a chance to fill that plane and hit our 10,000 enplanements,” CAST president Shawn Parker said.
Heid saw the weekend’s event as an opportunity for citizens to also see the benefit in utilizing Denver Air Connection versus Great Lakes Airlines, which served Sheridan in the past. He said the new services provided more stability in the air as well as amazing service from Denver Air Connection staff.
Hoskinson Rigdon, who originates from the Midwest and frequently travels to Denver saw the successful trip with her two children as a positive alternative to driving in the future. She hoped the event was successful in gaining more enplanements for CAST as well.
“Hopefully they’ll get a lot more people,” Hoskinson Rigdon said. “I like flying out of Sheridan personally, it’s just my two little ones make it not as convenient as it was without them.”