04/16/2012

Riggin takes over Madison airport

By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter, Madison Daily Leader

He hasn't entirely moved into his new establishment at the Madison Municipal Airport, but Morris Riggin already has plenty of business to take care of as its manager.

City officials hired Riggin in March to take over the operation of the city airport and serve as its fixed-base operator. Riggin judged on Monday (today) that he could finish moving his tools into the main hangar at the airport with another weekend's work.

As the new FBO, Riggin will provide services such as aircraft hangaring, flight instruction and aircraft maintenance. He'll also stay busy by performing other flight-related work, including aerial crop spraying, which has provided a major part of his income for years.

Riggin teaches pilot instruction, saying that he's busy with "a growing flight school."

"I've been a flight instructor since I was 18," Riggin said.

Riggin can help students earn their private and commercial pilot's license. He can also help them obtain certification for instrument, seaplane and multi-engined piloting.

According to Riggin, he started teaching students while living in Ipswich, providing ground classes at his home. His students would start flying from a grass strip near Mina. Riggin also taught float-plane piloting from a spot on Mina Lake.

He has some familiarity in managing a rural airport. Riggin's father managed the Milbank airport for about 20 years, and Riggin managed the same airport for nine years.

In 2003, he moved to the Aberdeen area and worked as a pilot and flight instructor in the north-central part of South Dakota.

Riggin fielded a couple of phone calls during his interview -- one from a Sioux Falls aircraft owner who was interested in finding hangar space at the Madison airport. Riggin pitched the idea of the pilot building a new hangar in Madison instead of leasing space.

After finishing the call, Riggin said the Madison airport offered lower construction costs when compared to the same hangar space at the larger Sioux Falls airport. He said not having to negotiate through airport security concerns was a major factor to Madison offering lower costs to pilots.

According to Riggin, Madison also offers benefits to corporations that own and operate their own aircraft.

"That's something that I would like to work on -- getting more corporate airplanes coming into Madison," Riggin said.

He said larger retail companies often base and fly light or twin-engine airplanes from cities such as Sioux Falls. In addition, the larger corporations fly executives across the country using turboprops such as Citations.

"We're not that far away from Sioux Falls, so there's a possibility that we could lure some business aircraft to Madison," Riggin said. "This airport can offer a great facility with the improvements that we'll make during the next two years, and we also have jet fuel."

Engineers are still busy completing the design and environmental work needed before construction of the airport's new parallel taxiway can start.

However, Riggin said the Madison airport should have a new ground communication outlet available for pilots. During days with bad weather, pilots on the Madison runway need to call air-traffic control in Sioux Falls on their cell phones to get flight clearance. With a new GCO system, pilots can connect with air-traffic control on their aircraft's radio.

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