Local airports take cues from FAA

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— All air traffic at Routt County's two public airports was grounded Tuesday along with traffic at the rest of the nation's airports.

A single Great lakes Aviation turboprop left Yampa valley Regional Airport near Hayden for Denver before 7:30 a.m., about 30 minutes after an airliner crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. But shortly after that, officials at both YVRA and Steamboat Springs Airport were notified by the FAA to prevent any more flights from operating.

The airport shutdown included general aviation flights as well as commercial flights.

"I called Spectrum (Jet Service) and told them they were not to allow anyone on the ramp, whether they own an aircraft or not," YVRA Manager Jim Parker said.

Steamboat Springs Airport Manager Matt Grow said he was notified by the FAA that the U.S. military had taken control of U.S. air space and any aircraft other than military aircraft would be subject to "armed challenge."

Grow said late Tuesday afternoon that his most current information was that the military would continue controlling U.S. air space until at least 10 p.m. today.

Grow confirmed the FAA communication provided a means for medical evacuation services like the air ambulance operated by Mountain Flight Service in Steamboat, to apply for permission to make emergency flights. Grow said in such a case, the pilot would contact the FAA in the same way they would routinely file a flight plan and identify themselves as a "lifeguard aircraft."

Pilots flying medical evacuations usually identify themselves to air traffic controllers with the phrase "lifeguard" immediately preceding their call sign.

Cindy Maddox of Mountain Flight Service said the need to request permission to fly had not arisen Tuesday.

"I think if it were an absolute emergency, we would certainly ask the question," Maddox said.

Mountain Flight Service lost some regular charter flights scheduled to operate Wednesday and Thursday Maddox said. They did not have any flights scheduled on Tuesday.

Parker said the normal complement of two contract security screeners were working at the YVRA on Tuesday. Those workers are not law enforcement officers.

YVRA is classified as a "Category 4" airport by the FAA, Parker said, which means law enforcement officers must be able to respond to the terminal within 15 minutes.

Parker speculated that one response by the FAA might be to direct him to arrange for armed, non-uniformed officers to be on hand at the airport at some point.

Parker said he hoped, before the end of the day today, to be advised of what would be required for YVRA to reopen.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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