Friday, June 09, 2006

Airport plans

Those who have visited Steamboat Springs in the past ten years may not realise that Steamboat Springs is actually served by two airports. Since 1995 commercial services have been concentrated at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN) which is currently undergoing a major upgrade. This airport is located approximately 20 miles west of Steamboat and in the winter has direct services from many locations using jets as large as the Boeing 757.

But the first time I visited Steamboat in 1989 I flew in to the Steamboat Springs Airport (SBS) aboard a Continental Express Dash-7. The nice thing about that was the airport is only a mile or so from downtown Steamboat. Continental ended the service in 1995 when they closed their hub operation out of Denver, although I doubt it would still be going now because few aircraft have the STOL capability to operate there and the Dash-7 has been out of production for nearly 20 years.

Since then the future of SBS has been controversial. The airport continues to operate as a general aviation facility but still requires some financial support from the City. But closing it down is not straightforward. The effect of moving the general aviation traffic to HDN needs to be considered, much of the development has been done with grants from the FAA which would need to be repaid and there are contracts with existing users such as hangar owners who would need to be compensated.

That's all background to a very interesting presentation last night to the Yampa Valley Airport Commission. A team of developers is proposing to buy the airport from the city and develop a fly-in community (houses where you can park you plane in your back yard). As a member of the Commission it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the merits of the proposal (you can read more about the presentation in today's report in our the local paper) but the figure of $200 million that was mentioned as the total proposed investment caught my attention because it's indicative of the massive level of development that is likely to happen in Steamboat in the next few years.

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