WILLISTON, N.D. – The Fargo Jet Center announced Wednesday it plans to expand to Williston to help meet the booming demand for oilfield-related private air service.
Darren Hall, vice president of marketing for Fargo Jet Center, said officials have been watching the expansion of air traffic in western North Dakota and they believe a new Williston Jet Center can greatly improve the service.
A 6,400-square-foot passenger facility will be constructed adjacent to the main terminal at Sloulin Field International Airport. It’s expected to begin operating this summer, Hall said.
The Williston Jet Center will offer aircraft fueling, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, aircraft charter management and aircraft sales.
“We believe the level of service can be brought up to a much higher level than it is today,” Hall said.
The oil boom has significantly increased private air service to Williston with oilfield crews, business executives and investors regularly flying in and out of the city, said Steven Kjergaard, airport manager.
In 2012, Williston had about 13,000 enplanements – or passengers boarding planes – related to the oil industry, Kjergaard said.
On Wednesday, which is often the busiest day with oilfield crews flying in and out on charter planes, 15 to 20 aircraft were on the ramp, Kjergaard said, adding that activity is even busier in the summer.
Western Edge Aviation already operates as a fixed-base operator at the Williston airport and the new Williston Jet Center would be a competitor.
Ed Fandrich, who manages Western Edge Aviation in Williston, said the demand for air service keeps them busy, but he’s not sure there’s room for two fixed-base operators.
“I think it will have a harmful effect on our business,” Fandrich said.
The Williston Jet Center will be constructed in an area that is now a parking lot between the Western Edge Aviation building and the main passenger terminal. Sloulin Field already has a shortage of parking, but Hall said the plan calls for reconfiguring the parking in a way that will actually result in more parking spaces.
Kjergaard said he had not yet seen their parking plan.
Discussions are underway to construct a new airport for Williston, which is also seeing huge increases in demand for commercial air service. Hall said Jet Center officials recognize they could have to move to a new location in a few years if a new airport is approved.
The Williston Jet Center will have the same high level of service, including rolling out a red carpet for passengers, that the center does in Fargo, Hall said.
“It will become the welcome mat to the people visiting Williston,” Hall said.