General Aviation: Grand County’s easy-in, easy-out mountain airports
January 26, 2009
Geographically, Grand County is larger than the State of Rhode Island and just smaller than the State of Delaware. In fact, Grand County is so large that it can experience two entirely different weather systems at the same time. The weather can be sunny in Granby while stormy in Kremmling and vice versa. Thanks to the two airports, Grand County is almost always accessible by air. Both airports feature runways over a mile in length. Aviators like to say, “A mile of highway takes you one mile. A mile of runway can take you anywhere in the world.”
With 584 peaks taller than 13,000-feet above sea level and 54 peaks above 14,000-feet, flat land suitable for airports west of the Continental Divide is scarce. That reality makes Grand County’s two easy-in, easy-out mountain airports very valuable assets, not just to Grand County, but to Colorado’s state-wide airport systems plan.
The Granby/Grand County Airport (GNB):
For detailed information about the Granby/Grand County Airport (30 based aircraft), see: http://www.granbyairport.com – a series of web pages funded by the Friends of the Granby, Inc. – a non-profit, IRS 501(c) (3), all volunteer group of business people and aviators who promote aviation education by working with local schools and even do the manual labor of an annual airport clean-up, fix-up day. The web pages feature links to a wide array of local services and tourist attractions. GNB is home to Chapter 1267 of the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA). Ten aircraft have been built at GNB by EAA chapter members, with more under construction. With three spectacular 18-hole golf courses within sight of GNB and two more premier golf courses within a 15-minute drive of the airport, GNB is a Mecca for fly-in, fly-out golfing.
Prior to airline deregulation in 1979, Rocky Mountain Airways provided airline service to GNB using a combination of DeHavilland Dash-7 and Twin Otter Aircraft. The one-way fare from Denver Stapleton Airport to Granby was $13.00. When the FAA’s $6.2 million Airport Improvement Project is completed at GNB during the 2008-2010 construction seasons, the former airline terminal will most likely become home to a Fixed Base Operation (FBO), providing flight instruction, maintenance and flight instruction.
McElroy Field at Kremmling (20V):
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For information about McElroy Field at Kremmling (18 based aircraft), see the AOPA’s Airport Directory and the FAA’s Airport/Facility Directory. The Kremmling area is a Mecca for hunters and fishers seeking the outdoors along the Colorado and Blue Rivers. The 1,550-acre Wolford Reservoir just north of Kremmling is a major attraction. Future plans for the Kremmling Airport envision a $20 million dollar project to realign the runway so that the landing approach from the West is not over the town. In order to change the runway alignment, a portion of U.S. 40 will have to be re-routed. The current estimate is that the project will not begin for about ten years.
Meanwhile, 20V serves a variety of transient aircraft, to include the Global Express.
How Grand County’s Airport Improvements Are Funded:
Three governmental entities are involved in the funding of public use airports such as those found at Granby and Kremmling. The current funding formula is: 95-percent from the Federal Aviation Trust Fund, 2.5-percent from the Colorado Aviation Trust Fund and 2.5-percent from local government. Moreover, in the fiscal year in which an airport completes an FAA-approved project, that airport receives an additional FAA grant of $150,000. Thus, it is possible for local governments to achieve a significant improvement in its airport or airports at virtually no cost. Even the relocation of roads to improve runway length or safety is fully reimbursable from the FAA to local governments.
The Federal Aviation Trust Fund receives about 75-percent of its funds from the airline ticket tax and from excise taxes levied on certain aviation-related items bought by pilots. The other 25-percent comes from general fund revenues. The CO Aviation Trust Fund receives its revenues from flowage fees and certain taxes levied on the aviation fuels that are pumped into aircraft at Colorado’s airports.
When pilots at Granby and Kremmling fuel their aircraft or transient pilots re-fuel their aircraft, they are paying into the CO Aviation Trust Fund. While airport maintenance is largely the responsible of local airport sponsors, the costs associated with constructing or rehabilitating that “mile of runway that can take you anywhere” are borne almost entirely by the direct users of the national air transportation system.
Actually, virtually everyone uses air transportation in some way. Receiving a package from FedEX or UPS or Airborne or DHL means using aviation. Eating food that has been protected from insects by aerial spraying means using aviation. Having a lost loved one found by the C.A.P. means using aviation. Every replacement part for virtually every piece of machinery, large or small, is moved, at some point, via air transportation.
The United States has the world’s best and safest air transportation system. If the system is thought of as a web of Interstate Highways in the sky, then local airports, such as Granby and Kremmling, are the on- and off-ramps that provide access to a host of goods and services and economic benefits for everyone. Moreover, those runways – those on- and off-ramps — can take pilots and their passengers anywhere they wish to go.
Both General Aviation airports make significant contributions to the economic life of Grand County. According to the latest airport economic impact study by the Colorado Division of Aeronautics in 2003, the Granby Airport contributes over $2,417,000 annually to its surrounding economy. McElroy Field contributes $2,947,000 on an annual basis. These studies factor in direct economic impacts, indirect economic impacts and a multiplier or “ripple” effect.