Four Corners Regional Airport
the fourth busiest airport serving all ‘ four corners’
Planned operation upgrades and impressive commercial growth meet aviation demand for Four Corners Regional Airport
Aviation is truly in Michael Lewis’s blood. As Manager of Aviation for Four Corners Region Airport in the stunning state of New Mexico, Lewis is able to live out what he has always been destined to do- work every day in ‘all things aviation’.
“Why wouldn’t anybody want to wake up in the morning and go to the place where all the airplanes are,’ Lewis asks. This a valid point from a man who has devoted his life to the trials and tribulations and joys of the aviation sector.
“Whether you are a pilot, a flight attendant, a mechanic, or even ground service people, they do it because they love it and they like to be around aircraft,” Lewis elaborates.
“When you look at a lot of different fields, or career paths people take, you will find that anybody involved in aviation does it because they really like it.”
“I was born and raised in the Air Force, so I was around aviation from the time I was born. I lived on Air Force bases across the country and decided to make aviation a career,” Lewis reflects when asked what propelled his ambitions in the aviation sector.
Taking aviation career prospects seriously is exactly what he proceeded to do. “I went to college and studied aviation, and started working for a couple of small regional airlines in Denver that was eventually purchased by Mesa Air Group, now based in Phoenix, but at that time was based here in Farmington. I started mainly in ground operations.”
Working his way up with laser-focus, Lewis became the President of Mountain West Airlines, at the time, the largest division at Mesa Air Group. From there, Lewis’s career continued to take flight, bringing us to his current and enviable position overseeing the operations of the fourth busiest airport in the state of New Mexico, Four Corners Regional Airport.
Operational dimensions of all ‘four corners of the airport
When asked how he would describe the operational capabilities of Four Corner Regional Airport, Lewis is quick to answer.
“We are a regional airport,” he begins. “ We currently don’t have commercial service and are actively seeking to reestablish commercial service. Over the past five years, we have received a little over $20 million in federal and state grants to carry out upgrades to the airfield, the runway structure, taxiway structure, the terminal and to prepare for regional jet service that we are hoping to capture fairly soon,” he continues.
“The general aviation part of our business has grown quite substantially over the last five years,” Lewis reflects. “ If we look at the years before COVID to now, we have increased our operations substantially and over the years we have broken new records.
“A lot of this can be directly attributed to the business activity at the airport.”
Lewis is quick to highlight the scope of this commercial activity. A multi-aircraft flight training business that operates daily on the airfield, in addition to two air ambulance companies, including Guardian Flight, and a direct medevac flight route to the neighboring San Juan Regional Hospital which takes the form of many night flights in and out of the airport.
The airport also sees a healthy number of daily general aviation flights touch down and take off daily from Four Corners Regional Airport, Lewis details. “We are in a good spot geographically as a field stop for different business flights that are either moving east and west or north and south.”
“We are also favored by some of the local military operations to do training. We have an air traffic control tower which they prefer. With a number of different instrument approaches that we have, it allows them to practice all kinds of different approaches to the runways that we have.”
As for the airport’s FBO, Lewis has nothing but complimentary words to relay about them.
“Atlantic Aviation is a real first-class FBO on the field that provides full service to all those various types of transient aircraft.”
An enviable gateway to the outdoor splendor
“Farmington has been at the forefront of a wide effort in the state of New Mexico to promote outdoor recreation,’ Lewis says. “ A number of years ago the state looked at other regions that were at the time far ahead of New Mexico in terms of promoting and capitalizing on outdoor recreation opportunities.”
This, Lewis highlights, was a bit of a wake-up call. The State of New Mexico and city leadership in Farmington took an inventory of what it had to offer, focusing on the impressive list of natural attractions and boundless beauty the state had to offer.
“We all know that the state is absolutely beautiful, has plenty of opportunity for all different kinds of outdoor recreation as well as boasting the beautiful weather to support this type of recreational outdoors lifestyle,’ Lewis reflects.
The airport came into full view as the tourist picture ramped up and now as Lewis describes it, “ The airport is one of the key gateways into the Four Corners area.”
“This area has some of the best fly fishing for trout, known as the ‘Gold Medal Trout Water’ that draws people from all over the world. There are guided packages as well as opportunities for individuals to take advantage of the river on their own.”
Lewis goes on to pinpoint a number of unparalleled tourist opportunities, from the world-renowned archeological site, Chaco Canyon Culture Center, to Mesa Verde which houses a number of ancient dwellings on display for residents and tourists to gaze at and absorb the magnitude of thousands of years of history that lie in the canyon walls of this beautiful area of the country.
“It is pretty amazing what we have here,” he adds. “This area has mountains with pine forests, like Colorado, flat and farmland areas, like Kansas, and there are a lot of major rivers that flow through here which all add up to an amazingly diverse outdoor experience in New Mexico.”
Operational Upgrades on the Radar
“We are at the tail end of a massive amount of work that we completed over the last few years,” Lewis points out.
The airport has seen a complete overhaul of one of its main runways.
“We also moved and relocated the taxiways associated with that runway in order to increase the runway reference code to handle larger and faster aircraft. Distance is required between the parallel taxiway and the runway. So we did a lot of work on the runway safety area to meet higher standards that entailed grading and lighting changes,” Lewis details.
This work has a distinct purpose, Lewis relays. The hope is that a commercial airline will be drawn back to the airport and one of those airlines that are currently being courted by Lewis and his staff is SkyWest Airlines.
“It is one of those primary carriers that we have been talking to . They seem to be in the right position, geographically and regionally to be able to serve us most efficiently,” he adds.
“We have certainly had conversations with them and with a number of other potential carriers. We have completely reconfigured the airport passenger terminal in order to accommodate regional jet service.”
Increased hangar space is also on the airport’s operation ‘flight plan’.
Traditionally an area that is left to private interests at the airport, as federal grant money is very limited for hangar upgrades, Four Corners Regional Airport is focusing on these relationships with private interests that already occupy hangar space with the hopes to add on to the hangar space available down the road.
What the airport’s future flight path looks like
Four Corners Regional Airport must be doing something right. Others in the industry are sitting up and taking notice of this busy regional airport and all that it has accomplished to date with State recognition to back up this obvious interest.
“We were awarded the Airport of the Year for 2023 by the New Mexico Airport Managers Association,” Lewis proudly comments.
Recognition such as this is fueling the future of the airport which Lewis and his team are meeting with enthusiasm.
“We have about 130 acres on the north side of the runway complex that we are in the process of moving forward with development. We feel it is a great opportunity for some kind of light industrial development and that it gives companies that are aviation-related direct access to the airfield with all the utilities and things that site selectors are looking for already in place for that property.”
As for what is on the immediate horizon, Lewis answers with optimism.
“There are two primary focuses for us. One is the commercial service that we have been on a five-year ongoing quest to secure, and the other is commercial opportunities expanding services at the airport- we want to create a business-friendly environment for our commercial partners and a great experience for those flying in.”
AT A GLANCE
Four Corners Regional Airport
What: Fourth busiest regions airport in New Mexico primarily general aviation based with plans to add a commercial regional service
Where: Four Corners, near Farmington, New Mexico
SUNNY 505 – https://sunny505.com/
Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau – FarmingtonNM.org
With ample opportunities for rafting, off-roading and cultural excursions, Farmington is the ideal basecamp for outdoor lovers and active families.
Cool off at Lake Farmington, explore the otherworldly Bisti Badlands or experience ancient cultures at the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Jolt Your Journey today. Start planning at FarmingtonNm.org.