YVRA summer volume up

Terminal construction likely to continue beyond Dec. 15

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— Airline passenger volume at Yampa Valley Regional Airport was up this summer, primarily because of increased traffic on United Express flights. However, the number of departing passengers on the daily Continental Airlines jet flight from Houston was down slightly despite robust load factors.

Mesa Airlines, operating as United Express, carried 10,129 departing passengers to Denver during June, July and August. That's up 474 passengers from last summer, according to figures maintained by Routt County. The 37-passenger Dash-8 turboprops were more than 70 percent full on average throughout the summer. They topped out at a load factor of 78 percent in July. United Express has four daily departures to Denver.

The daily 50-passenger jet flight from Houston was off slightly in June, July and August despite load factors of 84 percent in July and 87 percent in August.

Joe McNasby, a member of the Yampa Valley Airport Commission, said airport management officials have told him the Continental flight still performed well on the revenue guarantee contract this summer. Final numbers were not available this week.

The Continental flight loaded 3,148 passengers for Houston this summer compared to 3,340 in summer 2005 (a handful more traveled in September). Unlike 2005, July was the busiest month for the flight this year, with 1,328 passengers boarding the flight to Houston. Passenger numbers in August were down 102 to 1,212 when compared to the same period last year. The August 2005 load factor was 91 percent, which translated into virtually full aircrafts.

Now that autumn has arrived, the seasonal Continental flight has given way to a 70-passenger jet flown by Delta Connection daily from Salt Lake City. The flight leaves Salt Lake at 11:15 a.m. with scheduled arrival at 12:20 p.m.

Delta Connection will double the frequency of the Salt Lake service during the ski season.

Airport terminal manager Ann Copeland said construction firms working on the terminal expansion project expect critical portions of the work to be complete by Dec. 15. That's when ski season jet flights begin in earnest. However, some portions of the work will continue into the ski season.

"It was an aggressive schedule to begin with, and with the need to balance two contractors, there were timing issues," Copeland said.

Connell Resources is working on aircraft parking and parking lot paving issues. TCD is handling construction of the expanded building.

Copeland said critical areas such as the security screening facility and the secure passenger holding areas at the boarding gates will be emphasized in the remaining weeks before ski season. Construction on less pressing portions of the project, including the new ticket counter area, likely will continue beyond December, Copeland said.

McNasby praised the work of Copeland and airport manager David Ruppel in managing the complex construction process.

"They've done a phenomenal job," he said.

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