When Dave Ries, the Airport Operations Manager at Cut Bank International Airport, passed away on Nov. 3, Ron Hermanet said they lost, “the heart of this airport.”
Ron has been the Assistant Operator at the airport for some time and had worked with Dave for a long time. He is now the Airport Operations Manager, filling the shoes of the man who was at the airport, “almost every single day. Even on his days off Dave would still drop by, call or scope things out on the airport security cameras. There is no doubt in my mind that he loved being here, and us at the airport who worked with him, loved having him around,” shared Ron.
Dave started at the airport in 1993 as a Weather Observer. “Back then, the airport manned a weather station. We now have an automated system,” said Ron. “Dave eventually became the Airport Operations Manager in 2011.”
Dave’s “can do attitude and immeasurable work ethic” will be missed at the airport. Dave’s family has plans to hold a fly-in memorial for him at the airport in the spring of 2022.
There is a lot to do at the Cut Bank International Airport as Ron knew from being the Assistant Operator. As the new Airport Operations Manager, Ron is busy keeping up with the day-to-day activities which includes inspecting the runways, inspecting the airport fuel system and checking security of all the airport buildings.
Sometimes those inspections dictate how the rest of the day might be spent, be it fixing, repairing, doing general maintenance, cleaning, performing seasonal tasks, like shoveling, plowing, mowing or pretty much doing anything else that needs to be done in order to keep things moving at this busy little airport.
Then there is the office work, accounting and often times, meeting many of the regular planes coming into the airport which provide air ambulance services, UPS air services and other cargo services to Cut Bank and the surrounding areas.
“We provide what is called ground support services for Alpine Air, which is the UPS cargo plane that lands daily here at our airport. If the pilot needs fuel, we refuel the airplane. If the weather is bad, we place the aircraft in our hangar so it is safe from the elements,” said Ron.
While the UPS flight is daily, Ron said many of the other flights coming into the airport “arrive with little or no notice. The amount of service that is required varies from aircraft to aircraft.”
In a typical winter, November through March, the Cut Bank International Airport averages 65 aircraft each month. That number almost doubles in the busiest months of August through October, with 120 aircraft arriving at the airport each month. The numbers for the other months of the year vary between those given for the slow months and those provided for their busiest times.
Between 80 and 90 percent of the planes that come to the airport purchase fuel. Small aircraft generally purchase 20 to 50 gallons, helicopters can purchase 50 to 100 gallons and charter aircraft can purchase 600 to 1,000 gallons of fuel. Alpine Air, the UPS carrier, purchases on the average 250 gallons of fuel every week.
Not many people realize the Cut Bank International Airport is such a busy, vital and convenient service location for air travelers and air cargo.
The Cut Bank Airport is also an Airport of Entry, which means the Department of Homeland Security provides custom clearance and immigration services for all aircraft coming into the United States landing at the Cut Bank Airport. The Airport of Entry Status allows the Cut Bank Airport to designate itself as an International Airport.
With this much “traffic” coming and going from the airport, regular runway and taxiway maintenance projects are always on tap for the summer months, Ron confirmed. And this year, Ron added, a “new, larger hangar door for our big hangar is in the works.”
The Airport Board of Directors, comprised of two representatives from the City of Cut Bank, two from Glacier County and one joint city-county representative, oversee all the aspects of the airport. “The manager-operator and secretary report to the board at the monthly meeting and based on those reports, the board determines actions to be taken going forward,” said Ron.
The members of the Airport Board are Jim Newman and Jim Suta, who are the city representatives, Rick Geiger and John Evans are the county representatives and the joint city-county representative is Leif Torgerson.
Right now, Ron is the only employee working at the airport, at least until a replacement for his previous position of Assistant Operator can be filled. Until that time, Ron will continue to be the only “go-to” guy, keeping this amazing place up and running for aircrafts, pilots and any others who fly-in and fly-out of the northwest corner of Montana.