Great Lakes FILE

A flight crew loads baggage into a Great Lakes Airlines plane on the tarmac at Cheyenne Regional Airport March 25, 2016, in Cheyenne. Blaine McCartney/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Great Lakes Airlines suspended all flight operations at midnight Monday.

It was Cheyenne’s only air service carrier.

The Cheyenne-based airline announced on its website and Facebook page Monday evening that all future scheduled flights are canceled effective immediately.

The company has not declared bankruptcy, though. According to the statement, it “will continue to operate certain segments of the business,” including support for Aerodynamics Inc. flights between Denver and South Dakota cities.

Charter airline Aerodynamics Inc. has been making federally subsidized flights to Denver from Watertown and Pierre, South Dakota, under the name Great Lakes Jet Express since August 2016, according to the Pierre Capital Journal.

Other Great Lakes-serviced cities, including Prescott, Arizona, are left without any access to commercial air service, and report the announcement was unexpected by officials.

Great Lakes Founder Doug Voss and Cheyenne Regional Airport Director Tim Barth could not immediately be reached for comment, but there have been indicators of the airline’s financial stress throughout the years.

During its heyday, the airline serviced nearly 100 cities. This number continued to decline and, by 2016, service had dropped to 13 airports in seven states, according to previous reporting.

The airline has struggled with flight reliability for years and, as of April 2017, owed Cheyenne Regional Airport, its headquarters, at least $80,000 in lease payments.

During its decline, Cheyenne Regional Airport’s lone commercial carrier ended air service to all but one of the cities it once served in Wyoming and cut its flights from Cheyenne to Denver to one per week.

Great Lakes officials have long attributed a decline in reliable service to the national pilot shortage. The airline blamed federal laws that require co-pilots for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines to have 1,500 hours of flight time and a pilot certification.

Recently, airport officials defended the airport’s contract with Great Lakes, suggesting losing the airline would mean hundreds of lost jobs and a significant loss in tax revenue.

Cheyenne Regional Airport supports around 1,000 local jobs and contributes $2 million in tax revenue, according to officials. It is expected, but not confirmed, that some local jobs will be lost as a result of the closure.

Cheyenne Regional Airport is currently in the process of attracting a large commercial airline on the helm of an $18 million terminal restoration and reconstruction project. As Great Lakes suspends operations, the airport is without any air service for the time being.

Wyoming Tribune Eagle reporter Austin Huguelet contributed to this report. 

Business and Health Reporter

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