Eagle County airport was the state’s busiest for just one day

OK, DIA was closed, but the airport did set a new operations record

Private aircraft helped the Eagle County Regional Airport set a new record for flight operations March 12 and 14.
Vail Daily file photo

The Eagle Valley Regional Airport, for one day, March 14, was the state’s busiest. That comes with an asterisk, of course: Denver International Airport was closed.

A combination of the usual commercial traffic and a lot of private flights on March 12 and March 14 gave the local airport its busiest-ever flight operations days, with 345 takeoffs and landings both days.

Eagle County Aviation Director David Reid said the rush came with a number of passengers looking to either get out before the weekend storm hit or get in for the coming week.

The airspace around the airport is controlled through Denver, which Friday imposed a “ground delay program” to meter the flow of airborne aircraft.

While no flights were diverted to Eagle County from other airports, Reid said the traffic load did create some delays Friday.

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There were other delays Sunday, Reid said, but the weather mid-day cleared, which allowed more operations.

The airport’s location in Gypsum, an area the Ute Indians once called the “hole in the sky,” helped keep the runway clear. But, Reid said the airport’s snow removal crew was out early to clear the runway and aprons.

“Our snow removal crew is probably one of the best in the state,” Reid said. “They were out both days very early.”

Reid also credited the crew at the airport’s control tower with helping coordinate inbound and outbound flights.

“There was a lot of communication and coordination,” Reid said.

Most of the aircraft at the airport went through the Vail Valley Jet Center, which handles most of the airport’s private aviation.

Jet Center General Manager Paul Gordon said he usually spends most of his time in his office. But he’s been out on the tarmac a lot lately, helping park planes and directing ground traffic.

Gordon said the busy weekend was just the busiest in what’s already been a busy March.

“I see that as an indicator things are coming back,” Gordon said.

While a lot of planes came into and out of the airport over the weekend, Gordon said there was plenty of parking space for those aircraft. The Jet Center has roughly 30 acres of ramp space, and didn’t use it all over the weekend. Still, there were private aircraft parked on the pad used for de-icing planes on bad-weather days. That pad wasn’t used over the weekend — Gypsum didn’t get much snow.

Gordon said “It’s nice to see” the additional traffic. After a virtual shutdown a year ago, Gordon said January and February traffic this year was up slightly from the same pre-pandemic months in 2020.

March numbers aren’t in yet, but Gordon said he expects to see still more aircraft arriving in the coming weeks.

“I anticipate a really strong end of the season,” he said.

But don’t expect the airport to be the busiest in the state again any time soon — unless another storm closes DIA.


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