NewsLocal News


New Billings airport director set to take over Jan. 16

roach, jeff.jpg
Posted at 5:52 PM, Dec 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-23 19:52:42-05

BILLINGS — Billings Logan International Airport is busier than normal with the holiday season in full swing. There's been quite a few changes at the airport recently and more on the way.

And now a new face will be overseeing its future.

Jeff Roach this week was hired as Billings new director of aviation. He's coming from Nashville, Tennessee, where he was the director of aviation for the John C. Tune airport. And he's ready to hit the ground running in an airport featuring a $60 million remodeling project that brought a new terminal and a more modern look.

"It’s been a while since the airport master plan was updated at the airport so that is one of the first things I’ll be looking at is getting that process started," said Roach Friday.

The airport suffered a big blow last year when Frontier Airlines cut all service to Billings. An ongoing pilot shortage has also resulted in fewer flights from other carriers and that in turn, has led to higher ticket prices.

That's something Roach is already well aware of, and one of his top priorities is encouraging new carriers to come to Billings.

"The best way is to communicate with the air carriers to find out what their needs are. And then work with the airport and the community to meet those needs. A lot of it is providing data and metrics to the route planners for the air carriers to show them that there are passengers that are waiting to utilize a direct service to a new community from an airport," added Roach.

That's also been one of outgoing aviation director Kevin Ploehn's top priorities. He's retiring after 29 years on the job.

"When you go to talk to an airline about additional service now, it's always reflected back on well, if we had the pilots to do it, we might do it," said Ploehn.

Ploehn oversaw this major renovation, which he helps will entice new carriers and encourage existing airlines like Delta, United, and American to expand service.

"I think it sets the city up for the next 20-30 years anyways, and it's good for the community," added Ploehn.

And both men believe more carriers will ultimately mean cheaper airfare for passengers. A model that's already proving successful in Bozeman, which is now the state's busiest airport.

"The more opportunities you offer through an airport the greater the competition and the lower the prices," Roach said.