Eagle County Regional Airport is spruced up and ready to de-ice
County officials celebrate a pair of ribbon-cutting ceremonies and nonstop winter service begins Wednesday
GYPSUM — Winter begins in earnest this week at the Eagle County Regional Airport and travelers are in for a big surprise.
Fourteen daily nonstop flights will comprise the airport’s winter service and will begin service on Wednesday. Gate arrival will be the first clue for passengers that things have substantially changed at the airport. Instead of walking down a rolling staircase and across the apron to get to the airport terminal, they will likely step out onto one of four new jet bridges. Those bridges will then lead them to the new 120,000-square-foot terminal — an expansive space that includes expanded seating, a bar and dining area, a fireplace lounge and even a pet relief area.
For the traveling public, many of the Eagle County Regional Airport improvements are hard to miss. Some are hard to see. But taken all together, the project has changed the facility into what Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll described as “a big boy airport” during a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Friday.
The new terminal has actually been in service for about six months now, but general contractor Hensel Phelps didn’t completely finish work until this month when crews completed a renovation at the temporary terminal space. The list of improvements at the new terminal is extensive and the space is striking.
For travelers, one of the biggest improvements is the new baggage claim belt system, which allows airlines to offload at all carousels simultaneously.
“This means shorter wait times for passengers at baggage claim,” said Jodi Doney, the airport’s terminal operations manager.
Between the aesthetic touches and the efficiency upgrades, airport and county officials believe the traveling public is in for a treat when they arrive at EGE — the airport’s official designation — this winter.
“Eagle is the premier airport on the Western Slope of Colorado,” proclaimed Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry.
Unlike the fancy new terminal, travelers and local residents alike can’t really see another $17 million project that will go into service at the airport this winter. But they will definitely feel the benefit of the new de-icing pad located on the southeastern corner of the airport tarmac.
A second ribbon-cutting ceremony was celebrated for the de-icing facilities last Friday, which drew an airport-insider crowd. But Josh Miller, Eagle County construction manager, was adamant that the new facility warranted celebration.
“This isn’t big and fancy like the terminal,” said Miller, “but we didn’t want it to be lost with all the terminal improvements.”
Motorists traveling along Cooley Mesa Road encountered crews working on the de-icing system this summer. The primary contractor on the job was Interstate Highway Construction, which was tasked with excavating and installing underground equipment. According to Miller, about 80% of the project is complete and crews will finish up next summer.
The de-icing pad covers more than 7 acres of apron area and can service three 757 aircraft at one time. Previously the airport only had the capacity for two 757s to simultaneously de-ice.
The guts of the operation are located below the apron pad where there are two 25,000 gallon tanks that will store used glycol — the de-icing chemical. Miller noted that a special glycol recycling system has been installed that will be a zero-net impact to the airport, with a contractor collecting the used chemicals stored under the apron.
Beyond the increased capacity and the environmental improvement, Miller said the location of the new de-icing pad will be a big boon. Previously, the de-icing pad was located on the west side of the airport. After de-icing, aircraft had to taxi a long distance, and at times wait in line, to take off. Because there is a take-off window related to de-icing timing, the previous situation was not ideal.
“This is really a much better scenario down here because 90 percent of our departures are westbound,” said Miller. With the new de-icing pad located at the southeast corner of the apron, aircraft can line up to be de-iced and then proceed directly to the runway, which should help minimize delays.
According to Eagle County Director of Aviation David Reid, the de-icing pad was financed through a $17-million Federal Aviation Administration airport improvement grant. The grant will pay for 90% of the project, with the county financing the remaining 10% using airport revenues.
Miller and Reid added that the de-icing project was completed sooner than anticipated with consulting company Jviation taking just six months to complete a design process that was anticipated to take a year and Interstate Highway Construction working an aggressive schedule.
“Our airlines thought they would only have one de-icing pad this winter when they have had two pads in the past,” said Miller. “The airlines were shocked when we told them we could have three full de-icers when they thought it would only be one.”
‘Look before you book’
As they celebrated both the expanded efficiencies and the upscale digs at the Eagle County airport, county officials also stressed a marketing message.
“The biggest misconception about EGE is that you can’t find a reasonable fare,” said Reid. “We encourage people to check here first and plan ahead.”
Shroll noted the airport’s new catchphrase is “Look before you book.”
“We want to encourage everyone who lives in our valley to use this airport,” said Shroll.
To learn more, visit flyvail.com.
For downvalley humans, it’s pretty cool when elk decide to hunker down around Eagle for the winter. For the elk, it’s more of a lesser-of-two-evils situation.