It appears 2014 is shaping up to be an exciting benchmark year at Glacier Park International Airport, and the Flathead Valley only stands to benefit from it.

The airport had its highest passenger traffic ever for July with 35,137 people boarding planes and 36,552 getting off planes. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but July turned out to be the busiest July on record in Glacier National Park, too, with a 699,650 people entering the park, breaking a 1983 record of 689,489 visitors for the month. Surely some of those airline passenger found their way to the park!

The airport had a record year in 2013 with 200,472 “enplaned revenue” passengers, and with the busy July, it is on pace to break that record this year.

Some of the credit for passenger traffic has to go to the steadily growing number of carriers serving the airport — Alaska, Allegiant, Delta, and United Airlines, a combination that offers year-round service to some of the biggest airline hubs in the country. We can remember a time not long ago when the airport had much more limited and often seasonal service from Delta, Northwest and Horizon.

But Flathead Valley tourism boosters are not content to be satisfied with the commendable improvements that have been made in regards to airline access.

A local group of business and tourism leaders recently raised $240,000 to ensure there will be a new direct round-trip flight from Glacier Park International Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport during the winter, from Dec. 20 through April 4. An economic analysis found that the additional flights could bring $900,000 to the local economy. And if the flight proves to be profitable, there’s potential for the initial investment funds to be returned, possibly to be used to further broaden air access to and from the valley. We’ll have to see how it all works out, but we are grateful for the confidence shown by local businesses in our region’s potential.

Finally, air shows don’t come around to the Flathead Valley very often — the last was in 2005 — but this year we get the Mountain Madness Air Show featuring the Air Force Thunderbirds with a hometown hero, Maj. Jason Curtis, flying in the lineup.

The Aug. 30 and 31 show is expected to draw 30,000 spectators, perhaps even more, and generate between $3.5 million and $4.7 million in economic activity.

That says something about air power, and the Flathead Valley has lots of it in 2014!

(c)2014 the Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Mont.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Photo Credit: A view from the Wild Goose Island is in the middle of St. Mary Lake in Montana's Glacier National Park. Loco Steve / Flickr