High-altitude training base to grow in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

High-altitude training base to grow in Eagle County

Vail Daily file photoThe High Altitude Aviation Training Site at Eagle County airport is the only location in the United States where military helicopter pilots are trained in the intricacies of mountain flying

EAGLE – Work will start next year on a big expansion project at the Colorado National Guard’s High Altitude Army Aviation Site at the Eagle County Regional Airport. The project could create work for some local construction companies.

A group from the Colorado National Guard Tuesday gave the Eagle County Commissioners an update on the status of the project, which will expand the only location in the United States that trains military helicopter pilots in the intricacies of mountain flying.

The training center hosts pilots from the United States and its European allies. Pilots come from everywhere from Denmark to Afghanistan.

“This is graduate-level training,” said Major Tony Somogyi, the base supervisor.

And the need for training has outstripped the center’s ability to handle all the students. That’s why a new facility will be built.

Besides housing for students and a big new maintenance hangar that will hold four of the Guard’s giant twin-rotor Chinook helicopters, the center – which will be LEED certified – will also be home to several smaller Blackhawk helicopters. Another three Blackhawks equipped for medical evacuation and 19 more people will be added to the center, too.

With a major construction project in the county set to start in a year, the commissioners wanted to know whether the Guard will use local contractors. Team member Mark Schoenrock said using local companies is part of the project’s criteria.

“It’s going to be an open process,” Schoenrock said. “You’re welcome to look in on it at any time.”

Besides just being open to locals, Schoenrock said the Guard will help guide companies through the process of applying for the job, because it’s using federal money and requirements.

“We’d like you to have people here contact us about how you do business with the federal government,” Schoenrock said. “If you’ve never done business with them before, it can be a little frightening.”

Col. Debi Roberts of the Guard said she’d be happy to set up times to talk to local contractors.

“Mark’s office is one of the best at knowing the requirements,” Roberts said. “You have a vast array of contractors in this area that would be very capable of doing this work. We’re willing to accommodate them.”

The commissioners said the county will help the Guard however it can, including helping to decorate the guest quarters in an effort to bring some of the the pilots back as tourists.

“A lot of guys do bring their families back to ski,” Somogyi said.

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