Grand County Commissioners debating changing airport name |

Grand County Commissioners debating changing airport name

Tonya Bina
Grand County, CO, Colorado

Grand County commissioners are chewing a little longer on a proposal to change the name of the Granby Airport.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, several individuals associated with the Granby Airport outlined why the Emily Howell Warner name could elevate airport recognition.

Warner is considered the most famous female Colorado aviator, said Granby Airport supporter Penny Hamilton.

She and members of the Friends of the Granby Airport, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association attended the meeting to testify in favor of the name change.

One member of the public, Paul Stuart, husband to Commissioner Nancy Stuart, testified against the name change, advocating the name be left as is. His opinion was expressed in no way to shun Warner, he said, but to keep the history of the Granby name in its airport.

Warner, a Colorado native, was the first woman to be hired on as a pilot by a scheduled U.S. airline 70 years after the Wright Brothers flight, and became the nation’s first female airline captain, flying for Frontier then Continental, then UPS. She later worked for the Federal Aviation Administration as an air crew program manager.

She has 25 years of ties to the Granby Airport, and she and husband Julius were the developers of Ouray Ranch on the Colorado River near Granby.

“I’m just thrilled,” Warner said on Wednesday of the possibility the airport would be named after her. In Arizona for a few months before returning to Denver, the famed aviator said the high-elevation airport holds a strong place in her heart.

“I love that airport. I did all my mountain flying up there. I just like to promote aviation and (the airport name change) would be a good way for me to do it.”

If it were to be named after her, Warner said she would take that opportunity to start an aviation scholarship fund in the area. She hopes to continue her work advocating the profession to young people and sending the message that persistence pays off in pursuing a dream.

Warner started flying for Frontier Airlines nine years after Congress passed the Equal Rights Act. By then, she had accumulated 7,000 hours of flying time, she said, compared to most men, who when hired at the time had around 1,500 hours.

After her very first commercial flight in the cockpit, after the publicity had quieted and the novelty had worn off, Warner encountered discrimination typical of the time.

The captain of her second flight told her, “You don’t have to touch anything on the airplane, just sit there.” When Warner confronted him after the flight, the captain said he didn’t “know about all this,” that he didn’t know “if women should be in the airlines.”

Today, there are about 6,000 female commercial pilots in the U.S., still a fraction of their male counterparts. But Warner’s success in breaking the glass ceiling paved the way for female aviators.

At 70 years, retired since 2004, Warner says she still flies airplanes and has 21,000 flying hours to date.

She brags that in 25 years, she has never missed a Fourth of July parade in Grand County.

“The type of publicity gained from naming the airport after Emily H. Warner would be phenomenal,” Hamilton told commissioners. The Warner name would bring international recognition to Granby, she said.

A possible name would be the “Granby-Grand County Warner Field,” or some other combination of names that identify where the airport is, who owns it and who is recognized for it. Supporters of the Warner name pointed out the Kremmling McElroy name, and how it conjures an interesting reference to Kremmling.

But commissioners conveyed they were not ready to change the airport signage just yet.

“It seems the longer a person’s been here, the less enamored they are by that name,” said Commissioner Gary Bumgarner about the Emily Warner proposal, after the meeting.

Commissioners said they have heard from other Grand County residents about other possible names, including naming the airport after William H. Harrison, a deceased WW II pilot, who with others was instrumental in starting the airport.

During the meeting, the notion of having a “Wall of Fame” display at the airport came up, to recognize other pilots who are associated with and instrumental to the Granby airport.

Commissioners tabled the issue to a later date.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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