Westjet air center: bikes, buffalo and the black hills & badlands of south dakota

With more than 20,000 hours of flying time between them, Westjet Air Center, Inc. (Westjet) owners Don and Linda Rydstrom know a thing or two about truly catering to the needs of their aviation customers. In fact, to give every Westjet employee a taste of a pilot’s perspective, the Rydstroms gifted all of their employees an hour of flight time at Plane Training, a flight school that’s run by the Rydstrom’s daughter and son-in-law, Miranda and Bijan Maleki.

Like-New Facilities with New Offerings and Expansions

In 2015 Westjet announced the grand opening of its brand-new, $1 million luxury FBO facility that’s every bit as functional as it is comfortable. The lavish upgrades included a state-of-the-art flight-planning center, pilot’s lounge, private sleeping quarters, well-stocked vending area, and a children’s play room.

"We’ve seen steady growth since we unveiled our new facility," said Linda. "Shortly after the grand opening of our new terminal, we purchased an additional 10,000 square-foot executive heated hangar. We can now offer our customers 70,000 square feet of heated hangar space which is a huge asset in the cold winter months."

Additional upgrades include two more conference rooms and the recent completion of a new concrete ramp with increased parking space that can easily handle large aircraft like a Boeing Business Jet.

"Westjet has proudly been a Phillips 66® Aviation dealer for 60 years, a partnership that started even before my husband and I bought the FBO 40 years ago," said Linda. "Besides the fact that we have always had a phenomenal working relationship with Phillips 66, their ability to get us the amount of fuel we need, has always been a constant."

With on-site fuel storage that holds 20,000 gallons of avgas and 90,000 gallons of jet fuel, which includes three 5,000-gallon, state-of-the-art Jet-A refueling trucks, Westjet is prepared for the unexpected, like recently when an aircraft in route from Cuba to Canada was diverted and the FBO easily accommodated its refuel needs. Or to fuel slurry bombers that fight forest fires in the Black Hills, Westjet's avgas fuel consumption can easily climb from 500 gallons to 5,000 gallons a day.

Location, Location, Location

Centrally located Rapid City Regional Airport (KRAP) is an ideal stopping place for aircraft to fuel up for cross-country trips. However, South Dakota is also a premiere destination with a number of tourist attractions that draw travelers from near and far, including the majestic Black Hills National Forest and the historic Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial, just a 25-minute drive from Westjet.

In August the skies and the roads heat up as half-a-million strong descend on the state to attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

"We really ramp up to do whatever it takes during Sturgis," said Linda. "We’ll make sure we have extra customer service representatives and refuelers on hand, but at Westjet we do not hire seasonal help. All of our employees are full-time, and fully committed to their jobs all year long."

It’s not uncommon for Westjet to experience quadruple the traffic during this ten-day summer event.

And after the roar of motorcycles dims, the thunder of buffalo begins, with the annual Buffalo Roundup. Crowds are able to watch cowboys as they drive a heard of approximately 1,300 buffalo, a spectacular site.

In between these high-traffic times, Westjet employees take the time to stay up to speed on latest industry practices and safety standards with NATA Safety 1st Online Training, an offering Phillips 66 Aviation extends to its branded FBOs.

"Last Fall a Phillips 66 Aviation Quality Control representative came out to our facilities to conduct a two-day quality assurance/quality control workshop that all of our employees attended," said Linda. "It’s really impressive that Phillips 66 makes this kind of investment in their FBOs."

To learn more about Westjet, visit their website at westjetair.com.