The new Hot Springs County Airport near Thermopolis, Wyoming, opened to the public Nov. 7 with a ceremony attended by Gov. Matt Mead and several hundred local residents. The new airport launched an era of improved safety for northwest Wyoming’s gateway to Yellowstone Country.
A Wyoming Department of Transportation Cessna Citation Encore jet with Mead on board landed on Thermopolis’s new 6,370-foot-long Runway 5/23 to officially open the facility, which has been under construction since 2012.
The airport is only the tenth new or relocated nonprimary general aviation airport to open in the United States since 2010. It will continue to use the same 122.8-MHz unicom frequency as the older Hot Springs County-Thermopolis Municipal Airport that it replaces.
The previous airfield didn’t meet federal design standards and was situated in obstructed terrain that limited expansion and precluded night operations.
“The new airport will contribute to the safety of pilots flying in northwestern Wyoming because the facility meets FAA standards, has a longer runway, and is located where terrain is less of a hazard to flight operations,” said AOPA Northwest Mountain Regional Manager Warren Hendrickson. The association worked closely with the Wyoming Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division, the Wyoming Pilots Association, and the Wyoming Airport Operators Association as plans for the new airfield came together. GDA Engineers handled the construction aspects of the new Hot Springs County airfield.
The grand opening of Hot Springs County Airport situated in the Bighorn River valley 10 miles northwest of Thermopolis came under brilliant blue skies with a dusting of snow blanketing nearby mountains.
Hendrickson said community members got an up-close-and-personal look at the facility grounds and the airport’s new fixed-base operation. “A crowd of approximately 300 to 350 greeted the governor as the state's jet touched down for the grand opening ceremony. The large turnout for Hot Springs County’s opening was significant given that the population of Thermopolis is just 3,000 residents,” he said.
Lunch was provided for all guests after a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the ramp and children participated in a drawing for a chance to win a free local sight-seeing flight for themselves and an adult.
Hot Springs County Airport is situated close to the “world’s largest mineral hot springs,” according to the Hot Springs County Travel and Tourism Department. The foothills of the Big Horn Mountains are to the east and the Washakie Needles are to the west of the new airport. Nearby attractions include white water rafting, cross country skiing, fishing, and hunting.