Safety is arguably the single most important aspect of flying. So when Rapid City Regional Airport was selected to receive the FAA's Airport Safety Award, it was cause for celebration.
"Our staff is doing a fantastic job of taking care of airport safety and making sure that, indeed, our airport is as safe as it can be," the Airport's Executive Director Cameron Humphres said.
But emphasizing safety isn't anything new for the Rapid City Regional Airport. For nine out of the last 10 years, they've received no violations on their annual federal inspections.
"We've had a long history of really strong inspections," Humphres said.
Upgrades to the facility, like the addition of a new fire truck specifically designed to fight aircraft fires, also helps.
Other improvements include new de-icing equipment for both the airplanes and the tarmac.
"This is South Dakota, we've got to do better than the rest of them. We have the climates and the different changes of season," regular flyer Len Collins said.
But topping the list is the creation of the Airport Operations Department. It oversees training and certification of every airport employee and reports that information to regulators.
"It was hard to track it for the 24 months, so we automated the whole process," Operations And Security Director Pete Girtz said.
The new system is so successful that other airports are taking note.
"In fact, the FAA has taken copies of those back and benchmarked those. A couple of airports throughout the region have called us and we've shared those lesson plans with those airports, as well," Girtz said.
And the airport's enhancements aren't lost on travelers, either.
"They do a good job here. I've been in and out of TSA's throughout the country and all over the world and Rapid City is as good as any of them," Collins said.
This isn't the first time that the airport has been recognized for safety. The facility received the same award in 2001.