September 2, 2014
By Benét J. Wilson
The Colorado Division of Aeronautics kicked off a General Aviation Airport Sustainability Study on Aug. 27, designed to provide tools and guidance to help GA airports in the state remain viable and thrive into the future. The study will help airports not just from an environmental standpoint, but also from a financial, community, and operational standpoint. AOPA will be participating in the project study committee.
Findings from the study will form the basis of a toolkit that GA airports will be able use to create and implement a sustainability plan at their facility. It will include case studies on sustainability planning at three GA airports of different sizes in the state—Centennial Airport, Rifle/Garfield County, and Fremont County Airport. The three airports selected provide a good representation of the types of GA airports in Colorado.
Colorado’s study is the first of five FAA-funded statewide GA airport sustainability programs to commence. This project is a great example of a state recognizing the value of GA and GA airports, and taking steps to protect them on a statewide scale.
The first study committee meeting took place at Front Range Airport in Denver on Aug. 27, and the project is expected to be completed in early 2015. Tool kits and sustainability plans for the three airports will be completed by the fall of 2015.
Protecting and promoting GA airports has been a key AOPA goal since its inception, said AOPA Northwest Mountain Regional Manager David Ulane. “AOPA will be following the study closely, and we are pleased to have been invited to participate in the project study committee, which will offer input and guidance as the study proceeds, and review study documents at key points,” he said. “AOPA’s participation gives our members a voice on GA airport issues in the state.”
Colorado Aeronautics Director Dave Gordon said that the topic of sustainability is one that has been discussed at state airport conferences for many years. “We talked about regulatory requirements needed to make airports sustainable and compliant with regulations, and we always said there was more we could do in the long term to keep airports sustainable,” he said. “So with the FAA’s support, we submitted an application to do a small airport sustainability plan. Our aeronautics division saw this as an opportunity to help airports who really need it, so we can make sure that they will be here 50 years from now.”
The study is focused on three things, said Gordon: the environment, being financially sustainable, and being a support to the local community. “For example, if you have an airport that isn’t supported locally and the city approves development near the airport, that airport won’t be there in the future,” he said. “We want to protect general aviation airports and keep them alive 50 year from now.”
Once the study is complete, the goal is to have a toolbox of approaches to sustainability that airports can use to fit their local situation, financially and staff-wise, said Gordon. “Then every year, we can come back to see how they did and what worked,” he said. “We want to continue to encourage airports to not let the study gather dust, but be active with it and help keep our GA airports alive.”
AOPA appreciates the efforts of the Colorado Aeronautical Board and the Division of Aeronautics for their proactive efforts to recognize the importance and need for sustainability of GA airports in the state. Colorado-based AOPA members are being encouraged to follow the study. Members based at one of the three study airports should get engaged at the local level when opportunities arise. More information will be available on the Colorado Division of Aeronautics’ website.
AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor Benét J. Wilson joined AOPA in 2011. She is working on her private pilot certificate.
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