Fuel sales have helped push the airport profits up

A recent emphasis on marketing and driving more traffic to the Prineville/Crook County Airport is finally starting to pay off.

City of Prineville Finance Director Liz Schuette recently announced that the facility turned a fourth-quarter profit of more than $6,000 for the 2012/13 fiscal year. In addition, City Manager Steve Forrester proudly announced that the airport set a fuel sales record for August.

For airport manager Kelly Coffelt, the explanation is really pretty simple.

“It’s more activity — period.”

Since Coffelt took over managerial duties in December 2011, he has focused heavily on marketing the airport and sought to improve what the facility has to offer.

“It takes time. A lot of it is word-of-mouth that gets out that there is service here,” he said. “If you land here, we will run out, we will take care of you. Our prices are extremely competitive.”

That effort has involved a lot of phone calls, and Coffelt has planted information on the numerous aviation websites that pilots visit for flight planning.

“His work with the general aviation community in Central Oregon and his effort to promote the airport with some special events over the summer appear to be paying dividends,” Forrester observed.

The airport hosted an open house fly-in event as well as an antique aircraft show, which Coffelt said both enjoyed encouraging turnouts.

Meanwhile, Hillsboro Aviation has begun flight training at the Prineville facility. So far, they have been operating two to three aircrafts at a time, and they are looking to expand.

“Very quickly, we are looking at 40 to 50 students doing flight training seven days a week,” Coffelt said. “That is going to be a huge change for the airport — very positive for the airport and the community.”

The increased traffic has helped push the fuel sales to a record high last month. Coffelt said they broke the $100,000 “glass ceiling” for the first time, which equates to about 20,000 gallons of fuel.

As good as August looked, fuel sales for August, 2014 could be better. Coffelt noted that the recent record came during a less active fire season, and Hillsboro Aviation had scaled back operations for the summer months.

In addition to Coffelt's management, Forrester attributes the airport's recent success to the strong partnership developed between Crook County and the City of Prineville, as well as the foundation laid by the Crook County Airport Commission.

The Commission oversaw several improvements to the airport including the addition of hangars and a runway extension. Amid financial struggles, they conceded leadership to the City and County in fall 2011.

“I think it’s important to note that the airport commission did a fantastic job — and I mean that,” Forrester said. “They did a very solid job of developing the infrastructure.”

Now, with new leadership at the helm, the airport has enjoyed success beyond expectations and Coffelt doesn’t expect it to slow down any time soon.

“We are just getting started.”

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