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Russian jet loading

A Russian Volga-Dnepr Airlines Antonov An-124 loads cargo at the Billings airport Sunday afternoon. The jet is the second largest civilian cargo aircraft made and the airline has a dozen of them. According to U.S. Dept. of Transportation document the company is making five stops in Billings under an emergency exemption to pick up and deliver 400,000 pounds of relief supplies to the U.S. territory of Saipan in the aftermath of Typhoon Yutu.

Nearly a million people arrived and departed from Billings Logan International Airport in 2018, breaking the previous record set in 2012. 

In all, the airport saw 451,564 passenger arrivals and 453,309 passenger departures for a total of 904,873 people who used Billings' commercial airline service. The last high mark was 899,302 passengers in 2012.

Last year's 904,873 passengers was a significant jump from the year before. In 2017 Billings Logan saw a yearly total of 853,559 passengers. 

The city's director of aviation and transit, Kevin Ploehn, attributed the 6 percent increase in passenger numbers to a strong local economy, a good year in the agricultural sector, proactive marketing by Visit Billings, and expanded air service into Billings in recent years. 

Dallas flight

Customer service agent Brittany Ashcraft assists customers leaving on an American Airlines flight to Dallas-Fort Worth at the Billings Logan International Airport on Thursday.

The airport also saw an increase in the amount of cargo shipped through Billings, which also broke a record for 2018, he said.

In total, Billings Logan saw 41,578 tons of cargo last year, much of it attributable to geography, Ploehn said. The Billings airport acts as a hub to the smaller communities in Eastern Montana. That's an 18.8 percent increase over 2017, Ploehn said.

Pence airplane

An Air Force C-17 transport carrying the Vice President limousines is parked at the Billings airport after suffering a mechanical failure.

Billings serves as a transfer hub for freight shipped to Montana's smaller towns. The growing online popularity of online shopping also contributed to that bump, he said.

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump steps out of Air Force One after landing in Billings for the rally at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark on Thursday, September 6, 2018.

Also in 2018, the Billings airport handled visits from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence — who flew in on Air Force One and Air Force Two, and were preceded by other planes carrying Secret Service and other secure vehicles needed for those visits.

Vice President Mike Pence comes to Billings

Vice President Mike Pence, right, and his wife, Karen Pence, exit Air Force Two at Billings Logan International Airport on July 24, 2018.

The president and vice president were on the campaign trail for State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who sought to unseat Sen. Jon Tester in the U.S. Senate. 

The Billings airport also played host to one of the world’s largest cargo planes, the Antonov An-124, which was being used as part of a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Administration to ship massive loads of construction materials to a cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean after Super Typhoon Yutu struck in October 2018.

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.