Colorado Airports Look to the Future
It is the responsibility of the Colorado Aeronautical Board and the CDOT Aeronautics Division to prudently manage fiscal concernswhich inevitably seem inadequate to meet needs of the expanding Colorado aviation community. To accommodate growing demands on federal and state funding, an update of the Colorado State Aviation System Plan study was begun in early 1999 to inventory the State's current aviation resources and forecast anticipated growth.
The preliminary reports are beginning to show some interesting trends. Although the final document is far from complete, a few startling facts are making it clear that it is time to get serious with our evolving system demands at airports and aviation facilities.
Colorado has far outpaced the nation in aviation growth. Commercial enplanements (the head count of every passenger boarding a commercial aircraft at a Colorado airport ) have increased at a 5.3% rate since 1988; the national average for that period is a 3.1%.
Growth in operations (an operation is counted every time an aircraft takes-off or lands at a Colorado airport) are expected to increase from 2.2M in 2.7M by 2018. Although about 80% of those operations are expected to be single-engine general aviation aircraft, the fleet mix is changing as a growing number of multi-engine and turbojet corporate aircraft serve a growing number of Colorado airports. Transient jet traffic exceeds the national average.
The purpose and function of airports vary dramatically. Rural and local service airports are limited, providing facilities for emergency flight-for-life and fly-in medical services. Regional and reliever airports offer services to locals and tourists alike: fuel and maintenance services, flight training, and access by larger business aircraft. Commercial service airports provide gateway operations for the State's growing business and tourist traffic.
The Colorado Aeronautical Board's goal is to maintain a safe and reliable core systems of airports, while selectively improving that system to meet current and future demands. In a system of airports that supports economic development and access to rural parts, this growth must be accomplished while minimizing adverse environmental impacts and land use concernsall done in a fiscally responsible manner with resources far short of a best-case scenario. Not a small task!
The completed Colorado State Aviation System Plan, funded jointly with state and FAA dollars, is anticipated in mid-spring. It is the Board's hope that the study can provide focus and direction to the daunting long-term task ahead.