Recognition has been on an upward trajectory for Stillwater Regional Airport ever since commercial flights with American Airlines began in August 2016. On Jan. 30, the Federal Aviation Administration awarded SWO with its 2017 Oklahoma Regional Airport of the Year Award.
The award, according to the certificate, “recognizes airport sponsors that have creative a positive safety culture, implemented sound and consistent capital planning, supported FAA initiatives and have enhanced safety at the airport.”
“It’s very important for everyone to understand that an award like this is a product of our staff and the partnership that exists between the City of Stillwater, the Airport Authority, Oklahoma State University, the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Stillwater,” Airport Director Gary Johnson said. “Certainly all of those partners were big players in helping the airport grow and be recognized with such an award as this.”
Oklahoma is in the FAA’s Southwest Region, which includes Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana and Arkansas. One airport out of each state won the award. Stillwater has won the award three times, the last time in 2005, but recently the accolades have been piling up. SWO also won the 2017 Oklahoma Airport of the Year from the Oklahoma Airport Operators Association, received the TSA Partnership Award for the state of Oklahoma and the American Airlines Envoy Team won the “Customer Cup” for outstanding customer service in the first quarter of operations.
“We’re consistently the fourth busiest airport in terms of operations, which are landing and takeoff, we’re around 80,000 landings and takeoffs per year. A lot of people don’t realize that,” Airport Assistant Director Paul Priegel said.
As the aviation and aerospace industry continues its growth in Oklahoma, Stillwater counts itself among the state’s economic drivers.
“Our economic impact for 2016 was $70 million to the local economy,” Johnson said. “That’s direct and indirect as well as jobs and the multiplier effect of the dollars.”
Johnson gets his numbers from a study by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission. The OAC found that airport tenants (a large group made up of airline, or other agencies, contractors) accounted for about $12.7 million in total annual spending. General Aviation spending was about $10.1 million and commercial service visitor impact was valued at $15 million in spending.
He’s excited about the past, present and future of the airport. As he spoke Thursday morning, concrete was being poured for Phase One of the Parallel Taxiway Project. When design standards changed, Stillwater Regional had to have a taxiway that runs beside the airport’s apron, or ramp, instead of through it. Phase One of the project is well on its way. Phase Two should begin in March.
And, of course, with success comes expectations. A lot of people are curious if SWO will have direct commercial flights to and from destinations other than DFW in the future.
“Right now, where we are in the development in air service here … a natural progression would be adding an additional flight to Dallas, to increase the opportunity of our passengers to arrive and depart. I think it would be some time before an additional destination might be feasible,” Johnson said. “We are obviously generating the data. We didn’t know exactly what we were going to have or how well the market would respond. We look at that every month and American looks at it, and try to evaluate what’s going on and where the market share’s coming from. But it’s a growing process and a learning process. We believe that America and the Dallas Fort Worth hub offers us strong domestic and global connectivity, which is an important part of our success.”