Flying High Again
April 4, 2019
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  • Chan Gurney Municipal Airport Receives State DOT Award For Excellence, First Time Since 2009

    Yankton’s airport is soaring to great heights on the wings of its staff and the community itself — and that effort is being recognized.

    Yankton Chan Gurney Municipal Airport was recently the recipient of the 2018 South Dakota Large General Aviation Airport of the Year. The award is presented by the South Dakota Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division during the state airport conference.

    Yankton airport supervisor Mike Roinstad told the Press & Dakotan that it’s a rigorous list of criteria to meet.

    “We’re inspected every year by the state,” Roinstad said. “There’s several criteria that they look at — is the grass mowed? Do the lights all work? Do the surrounding buildings look nice, neat and clean? Is it inviting for people to come to?”

    The last time the airport received the award was in 2009. The airport also received it in 2008.

    Roinstad said he was happy to see the airport receive the recognition and that a lot of effort goes into maintaining it.

    “We worked very hard to keep everything up to date, looking nice, neat and clean,” he said. “It was very rewarding.”

    Yankton Community & Economic Development Director Dave Mingo told the Press & Dakotan that the staff deserves a lot of credit.

    “I’m very proud and thankful that we have the dedicated staff we do that take ownership of the facility and treat it like their own,” Mingo said.

    He added that this award will help people who may not be from South Dakota take notice of Yankton.

    “The award is another tool that we can use to make sure people know that we have a first class facility,” he said. “Those sorts of things are noticed by pilots who are, not just from South Dakota, but from around the country. When they’re looking for places to do business, they look for notoriety like that so they know there’s going to be good customer service.”

    Yankton Airport Board chairman Jim Cox told the Press & Dakotan that it takes a lot of work to be recognized.

    “It’s something you strive for every year, but it takes a lot of extra effort,” Cox said. “It’s the front door for Yankton. You take care of it, do the best possible (job) you can and it’ll come back many fold over.”

    Yankton City Commissioner Jake Hoffner — who himself is a pilot — said he’s seen a great amount of improvement at the airport over the years.

    “When I look back when I stepped on this field 30 years ago, wow, I never thought I’d see something like this,” Hoffner said. “(The conference room) was a garage and it was full of oil with a big drain in the middle that stunk of glycol. Just this room alone is quite a product of hard work, determination and people coming together.”

    City Manager Amy Leon told the Press & Dakotan that she was happy to see the airport awarded for the first time during her tenure as city manager.

    “I’m pretty proud of the staff, pilots, the airport board and everyone for making this airport what it is,” Leon said. “It certainly has gained more recognition over the last 5-7 years and we’re certainly using it more as a community.”

    Mingo said the airport’s future will be shaped by the support it receives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the City of Yankton.

    “A lot of the airport’s future is based on FAA funding and City Commission commitment to the facility,” he said. “FAA funding primarily finances the construction projects and the improvements out here. We’re always trying to work to gain interest in private investment and aviation-related business out here. Then the City Commission’s continued investment in the staff that it takes and the equipment that it takes to maintain the facility.”

    In the near future, the airport is gearing up for a major apron expansion project and will also be hosting an air show later this summer.

    Roinstad said the facility will also keep up its commitment to acting as Yankton’s front door.

    “We treat everybody the same,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if somebody comes in with a small aircraft or a large commercial jet — we’re going to treat them exactly the same and give them anything that they need and make sure they have a good experience here.”