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New airport tower a step closer

Veronica Whitney

The design for the new tower, which will have radar, has been completed and has received preliminary approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, says Rich Cunningham, Eagle County facilities manager.

“The tower comes under the big umbrella of growth and expansion at the airport,” Cunningham says.

County officials also are working to bring to the airport nonstop flights from one or more major cities in the United States, as well as an agent with U.S. Customs.

In an attempt to bring the flights and increase airline competition, Eagle County Board of Commissioners has agreed to subsidize the flights with an initial advance of $150,000.

Also, U.S. Customs authorities in Denver considering a request from Eagle County for a customs agent. If the initiative goes through, private planes coming from outside the country would soon be flying nonstop to the airport in Gypsum. Currently. Currently, planes coming from outside the United States must stop to clear customs somewhere else before landing in Eagle.

The new tower will allow for a radar system and four controllers – currently there’s one.

“We’ll be able to increase frequency of flights coming into the airport, especially on days with bad weather,” says Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone. “The radar will increase capacity by 10 times, so we can fly more flights in and out and in a more safely manner.”

The new 120-foot tower will replace the existing 35-foot structure.

“It will be comparable to a small city tower,” Cunningham said. “The new tower will make it more safe also because there’s going to be more visibility,” Cunningham said.

The tower will cost about $2 million, to be financed by Eagle County, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics, grants and federal funding, Cunningham said.

The new tower, scheduled to go online in September, will be located in the north side of the airport, to the west of the existing tower, which will be removed, he added.

“The existing tower can currently handle the flights planned,” said Becky Gadell, Eagle County assistant administrator. “But we’re positioning ourselves for growth.”

Airport ads: “I promise’

“The airport will get you to Colorado Powder ASAP,” promises a new advertising campaign to get more passengers fly into Eagle County Regional Airport.

Bucking a national trend toward declining airport services and passengers, Eagle County officials are promoting the airport with ads appearing in publications in Atlanta, Texas and Chicago.

“Because of the airport’s convenience and location, we had a good year and we expect the ski season to be even better,” says Eagle County Administrator Jack Ingstad.

American Airlines just added Los Angeles and San Francisco to their list of destinations.

Airport officials say they expect the new “I promise” program will set them apart from other destination airports. Passengers are encouraged to nominate exceptional employees who will be recognized with thousands of dollars in cash rewards.

“While safety and security will always be our top priorities,” Ingstad says, “a great guest experience must always be our goal.”

The county also hired Mark Davidson as the new airport manager. Davidson was recently awarded with a national airport customer service award.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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