Steamboat Springs The state of Colorado is doing a poor job of representing its airports at the national level, said the president of one of the leading trade associations for general aviation businesses during a recent visit to Steamboat Springs.
James Coyne is president of the National Air Transportation Association, a 60-year-old group that represents more than 2,000 businesses in the General Aviation sector.
Coyne spoke to the Routt County Commission this week, just two months after the Yampa Valley Regional Airport was put on NATA's list of "100 Most Needed Airports."
"Most needed" doesn't mean most important or biggest. Instead, the list is supposed to highlight those airports that have potential growth and regional significance. These airports were also on the list because they may be limited because of "hostile political circumstances."
While the number of airplanes are increasing dramatically, the number of airports are not increasing at all.
"We're not making new airports. We're not making new runways," Coyne said.
That's why it's so important that these less-visible airports on the "100 Most Needed" list are given attention by the FAA and the nation, Coyne said.
"These are our future highways."
As for Hayden, Coyne called it "the most jet-friendly airport of all the ski resorts in Colorado."
"Maybe of all the ski resorts in the country," Coyne said.
Coyne said Hayden's long runway, open area and it's position away from the mountains makes it a pilot-friendly airport.
"It's easier to land in bad weather conditions," Coyne said.
"No other ski resort has such good conditions."
However, Coyne said YVRA and other small Colorado airports are in desperate need of lobbying muscle that could net them a piece of a $3 billion pie offered by the federal government for airport improvements.
"Aviation has not been a high priority in Colorado," Coyne said.
"It's important for legislators and the governor to know that aviation is to the 21st century, what highways were to the 20th Century."
Coyne said Colorado needs to stay on top of FAA regulations and the money it makes available. He said the state ranks behind others like Alaska, New Mexico, Virginia, Minnesota and Florida when it came to knowledge of the aviation "system" and how to get money and attention from it.
Coyne and his wife, who are both pilots and own a home in Steamboat Springs, also made several predictions.
"I bet you five years from now, you'll see 50 percent more airplanes on President's Weekend," Coyne said.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know this airport (YVRA) will have a tremendous amount of aviation jets in the 21st Century."
Coyne cited several statistics that indicate huge growth in the industry.
He said right now there are 6,500 commercial jets, but there will be 9,000 to 10,000 such jets in the next 15 years.
He said there are about 15,000 private jets, and he expects that number to grow to 30,000 to 40,000 pin the next 15 years.
He also predicts additional direct jet service to the Hayden airport from places like Salt Lake, Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J.
Coyne recommended Routt County prepare for the future in terms of corporate hangar space, better terminals and ramps.
YVRA already is looking at building new taxi ways to an area that's been identified as a general aviation area that would house various corporate, executive and private hangars and FBO Hangars.
The airport also is studying plans for a new terminal.