Colorado rolled out a general aviation airport sustainability program Jan. 21 that is much more than an effort to join the growing “green movement.” According to the program’s interactive website, Colorado’s General Aviation Airport Sustainability Program is a “first of its kind project that will provide tools and guidance for Colorado GA airports to develop sustainability plans for their own facilities.”
“When we think of sustainability, the first thing we think of is recycling, but it’s much more than that,” said AOPA Northwest Regional Manager Warren Hendrickson.
The new airport awareness initiative uses an online tool that allows airfield personnel to input specifics for their facility. The data helps shape an airport to be as operationally efficient as possible, using a matrix of four pillars, Hendrickson said.
Social, economic, operational, and environmental components all factor into the long-term viability of an airport. According to the new tool, seeking a balance of these needs is the key. “However, because each airport has varied needs, the scalability and flexibility of the definition of sustainability can mean that one airport defines sustainability differently than another,” the program advises on its website.
Hendrickson said the program’s idea can be applied to airports nationwide. The tool allows personnel to analyze and optimize internal cost-control measures while looking at the economic impact and revenue-generating opportunities for an airport’s overall reach.
One example showing how airports can bring vital activity to the region is Steamboat Springs’ Yampa Valley Regional Airport, which is both a general aviation and commercial service airport. The gateway airport to northwestern Colorado allows visitors to fly into the high country rather than attempt a tricky automobile ride through the often-icy Rabbit Ears Pass on the outskirts of town.
Steamboat Springs' airfield, which will soon be celebrating its fiftieth year as a commercial service facility, virtually unlocked the quaint cowboy town and allowed skiers worldwide to experience Steamboat resort's legendary “champagne powder” blanketing Mount Werner.
In the winter, 70 percent of the skiers gliding down Steamboat's inviting slopes or tackling the mountain’s expert Rolex trail have passed through Yampa Valley Regional Airport, Hendrickson said.
Restaurants as diverse as the resort's highly regarded La Montana cantina and downtown’s Double Z Bar and Bar BQ have benefitted from increased revenue streams while mountain home property values have risen steadily.
(On the flip side, skinny-dippers swimming au natural at the nearby Strawberry Hot Springs are no longer alone in the snow-covered wilderness.)
During the summer, aviation continues to play a role at Yampa Valley Regional by allowing mountain bikers, hikers, and campers easy access to Steamboat’s trails and wilderness areas. Colorful hot air balloons dot sunrises and sunsets as aviators and their guests marvel at the craggy ridge tops nearby.
Hendrickson said other state’s transportation departments could take a page from Colorado’s airport sustainability play book to promote the valuable assets that GA airports bring to their own backyards. “Shepherding these airport resources wisely and increasing local involvement can bring increased value to the entire aviation system and the communities served,” he said.