Eagle Airport History & Operations

Eagle County Regional Airport Historical Context & Developments

Eagle Airport History

Major Events & Developments
of Eagle County Airport

Early History

The history if Eagle County airport begins with a purchase of a plot of land by Louise Ellen Cooley back in the 1920’s. Local barnstormers would perform aerial feats and demonstrations with their small sized aircraft. A new County Commissioner (Harry A. Nottingham) was interested in the development of a fully functional airport for Eagle County. In 1939 an engineer from Denver’s Airport District Office laid out plans for a new airstrip on the plot of land purchased by Ms. Cooley a couple of decades past. The Eagle County commissioner along with a local partner borrowed $20.00 to rent the necessary equipment to lay a functioning road connecting the towns of Eagle and Gypsum to the airstrip. And so, Eagle County Regional Airport came to be.

1940’s Expansion of the Airport Begins

The Herin family of Eagle County sold additional land to the CAA (Civil Aeronautics Authority) in 1942. This was the start of the foundations for a fully functional airport in Eagle County. A 300 x 3,000 ft strip was laid upon the newly leveled ground. Initially the strip was only designated for emergency landings for transcontinental flights that were experiencing technical issues.

In 1945 an additional 111.23 acres of land adjacent to the property initially acquired from Ms. Cooley were purchased by Eagle County. The price of this acquisition was $1,390. Upon completing this purchase, Eagle County officially took over the maintenance and operation of the air strip from the Civil Aeronautics Authority.

The cost of maintenance and operating the air strip at the time totaled $300/year. 1946 saw the development of an FSS (Flight Service Station) on the premises of the airstrip. The purpose of this station was to provide updated weather forecasts for airplanes flying over the area, and those landing at Eagle Airport. This facility operated in Eagle County until 1994, at which point it was relocated to DIA.

Eagle County Airport was officially dedicated for operations on September 14, 1947. This is the date the marks the development of what was once a small local airstrip used for amusement, into a modern airport which is now Colorado’s 2nd busiest, and continues to grow.

1960’s 1st Expansion of Airport Runway

In 1962, the runway 8/26 was upgraded , making it 50 feet wide and five hundred feet long. It was also lined with asphalt. The first airline started operations at EGE in the year Rocky Mountain Airways of Denver established an office for its brand new Vail Airways in January 1966. In this time the first hangar with apaved apron was constructed in the year 1968. In addition, a NDB, also known as a non-directional beacon (NDB) was acquired at Frontier Airlines. A NDB is an electronic radio transmitter placed in a precise location and emits a signal capable of following the curvature of earth. This lets the signal be detected at greater distances and at lower altitudes. This NDB established the first instrument facility and protocols and established an air route that was direct from Denver as well as Eagle for all weather-related departures and arrivals. The commercial development continued into the 1970s.

1970’s-1980’s EGE Upgrades

First Fixed Base Operator (FBO) was established in 1973, in 1973 when Mountain Flying Service opened its doors with two double-wide trailers. The second FBO was established in 1977, which offered services for aircraft mechanics and was also an approved Piper Aircraft dealership(3). A pilot school was established operating at the airport in 1978. Its mission was to instruct students on how to fly in the challenging mountainous terrain that surrounds EGE and, as we see today. It began to form in 1996, when the commercial terminal opened with three gates for aircraft. In 1985 the National Guard Armory was added at the airport, serving as a high-altitude training facility for pilots. It was referred to in the High Altitude Army Training Station (HAATS). Due to the increased number of aircraft operating the airport was extended in 1986. New Runway 7/25 began operations on the 11th of October in 1986. Runway 8/26 officially shut down.

The new runway was 150 feet wide and 8000 feet long, and has a an weight bearing capacity of 70, 000 pounds (lb) for Dual Wheel Gear (DWG) aircraft. The new runway also featured an entire parallel taxiway system that permitted EGE to be licensed for commercial major operations by FAA. In the next year an radar station was constructed in Red Table Mountain that allowed the increased surveillance of flights that depart and arrive at EGE. All the expansion and growth with major commercial airline services, EGE still operated without the proper sewer and water services.

1990’s Eagle Airport Air Traffic Control Tower Installation

The situation changed in 1992, as in 1992, the Town of Gypsum sewer and water service expanded to include the airport. Then, in 2003 the present Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) was constructed and is operated under the FAA Contract Tower Program(4). The tower was upgraded with navigational aids, with a brand new instrument Landing System (ILS) installed in 2006, as well as the new BI-6 surveillance aircraft system that can detect signals from aircrafts that are less than 10,000 feet. These upgrades enable for the FAA Eagle County Aviation Association Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) facility to keep track of aircraft from the air into the air.

The expansion of Runway 7/25 took place in 2009, when the runway was rebuilt and extended in conjunction the Taxiway A by 1,000 feet to 9000 feet. This extension allows airlines to carry an additional load (e.g. fuel or passengers) to their destinations. The airport is now EGE is the primary transport hub for commercial air passengers between and within passengers and/or fuel to the Vail Valley. The airport’s location allows access to Colorado’s Colorado Rocky Mountains and is just a short distance from The Vail & Beaver Creek Ski Resorts which makes EGE the primary destination for visitors who want to enjoy both summer and winter sports. Although the airport is situated within the Vail Valley It is completely surrounded by high mountain peaks and hills. This makes the terrain beautiful, but also challenging for air traffic controllers.

Current Developments for Eagle Airport

EGE is a popular destination for numerous aircraft throughout all of the United States. Instrument flight plans submitted to the FAA throughout one year are shown as Figure 1-1. Plan for instrument flight is generally submitted for the business section of GA and not for pleasure fliers. These plans typically are turboprop or commercial jets.

A master plan update was completed by Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE) in 2014(5). The Eagle County Regional Airport master plan was developed in order to outline the needs of visitors both present and future. It is crucial that this process is followed in order to ensure that an orderly and safe development occurs at EGE, in line with the interests of the entire community. It determines which facilities are required, when they’ll be required and the amount they’ll cost.

Neither the plan nor the outcome are predetermined, so today’s conditions, input from the community, and forecasts all contribute to the plan. We need your feedback and input to make the best decisions possible. Passengers, airport tenants, airport users and neighbors, airlines and business owners, and neighboring jurisdictions all provided input during the process.

Eagle County Airport Overview

Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE) is comprised of 632 acres. It it is situated inside Eagle County. It is located in the unincorporated area of Eagle County. The airport is situated about 136 miles away from the capital city of Colorado: Denver, Colorado.

The management and ownership of the airport is vested within Eagle County. The passenger terminal that is commercially operated is operated and owned under the control of Eagle County Air Terminal Corporation (ECAT). Eagle County Air Terminal Corporation (ECAT). ECAT is an non-profit organization controlled and operated by Eagle County that is authorized to issue bonds to finance the terminal as well as to collect and impose the Passenger Facility Charges (PFC) in order to pay the debt. The BOCC assigns an Aviation Director who is responsible for the day-to day operation and expansion for the airport. Airport personnel is accountable for terminal operations as well as airfield operations, firefighting and rescue of aircrafts as well as administration.