FARMINGTON — Four Corners Regional Airport's new manager, Mike Lewis, says Farmington is fortunate to have an airport, especially while small cities nationwide close their regional airspaces as flights are pulled to larger hubs.
"I would highly encourage people from our community to use our own, homegrown airline as much as they can," he said.
Lewis, who began work March 10, has nearly two decades of experience working with Mesa Air Group, serving in several positions, including as the Farmington regional operations manager, vice president of customer service, president of the company's largest division and senior operations director, according to a city press release.
Lewis, who has lived in Farmington since 1989, earned a bachelor's degree in aviation management from Metropolitan State University of Denver.
His salary as the new airport manager will be $83,000, according to an email from the Farmington city manager's office.
Todd Gressick was the airport's previous manager from June 2012 to October 2013, according to the email. He left to work for a private airline company in New Jersey, Assistant City Manager Bob Campbell said.
Lewis said increasing the number of commercial airlines that operate from the city's airport will be difficult. To do so, he said, the airport would need to attract more commercial flights from the area's major hubs, mainly the Denver International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
But those hubs fly to the Durango-La Plata County Airport, he said.
Great Lakes Airlines is the only commercial provider at the city's airport. The airline's director of public relations, Monica Taylor-Lee, said in December the company owns 28 19-passenger planes and six 30-passenger planes and employees about 1,000 workers.
"But the other thing is what this airport offers, (which) is a service to the community," Lewis said.
General aviation — corporate or personal — is a significant component of the airport, and Lewis said he wants to expand that. He wants to decrease fuel prices, modernize hangars and attract an on-site airplane shop to boost general aviation, he said.
As the new manager, he also wants area residents to understand the resources the airport provides. He said he's read online that some people are surprised to learn a commercial airline flies from the airport.
He said there is lots of activity.
"Anybody can tell that," he said, "if they just go out on a clear day and see all the contrails in the air."
At Aztec's airport, city officials expect to select the new airport manager no later than May 13, Finance Director Kathy Lamb said. The city has three proposals and its deadline for candidates to file closed Wednesday, she said.
The former airport manager, Michael Arnold, died on May 18 when his single-engine plane crashed before takeoff.