Vail Daily editorial: Hats off to HAATS |

Vail Daily editorial: Hats off to HAATS

Vail Daily Editorial Board

With election season in full swing, let’s take a moment to focus on something besides politics – the Colorado National Guard’s High Altitude Aviation Training Site, or HAATS.

Downvalley residents are familiar with the base at the Eagle County Regional Airport. At the very least, they’re familiar with the military helicopters that fly into and out of the airport every day.

The base’s main job is to train military chopper pilots in the often-tricky techniques of mountain flying. It’s delicate work, and the pilots who train here – mostly from this country’s armed forces, but also from mountainous countries around the world – save lives by working with HAATS trainers.

Besides that very important main job, the people at HAATS take good care of locals, because they’re locals, too. Everything from backcountry rescues to parade flyovers fall under the broad umbrella of “training,” and the folks at the base are always involved in community projects of one kind or another. They’ve also provided classroom instruction to the pilots at Tri State Care’s new air ambulance facility at the airport.

As HAATS has grown over the last decade – the unfortunate result of military action in mountainous areas – the base has outgrown its current facilities on the north side of the airport.

That’s more good news for the community.

The National Guard will start construction next year on a brand-new facility for HAATS that includes classrooms, expanded hangar space and bedrooms for students. National Guard officials have made a couple of pledges – that the new facility will meet LEED standards and, more important, that local contractors will be used whenever possible.

So tip your hat next time you hear the air-smacking sound of helicopter rotors overhead. Some good neighbors are flying by.

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