Time to party Eagle County’s new airport runway
August 23, 2009
EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – Planes won’t take off at the Eagle County Regional Airport main runway until Sept. 1. But people on foot and on bikes will beginning Wednesday.
The Eagle County Regional Airport, with the help of several sponsors, is hosting the Romp the Runway event, from 4:30 to 8 p.m., Wednesday. The celebration will mark the reopening of the airport after a summer closure to repair and extend the main runway.
“We wanted to invite the community to express our gratitude for putting up with us,” said Chris Anderson, Eagle County Regional Airport terminal manager.
The party will include a sprint-style bike race, a 5K run, a children’s obstacle course, a “Paint the Plane,” contest, a chalk drawing contest and a spaghetti dinner with live music, hosted by The Gypsum Fire Department. Proceeds will go to a scholarship fund.
“This event will provide an opportunity for people to see the spanking new runway with no planes on it,” said Paul Gordon, president of the Vail Valley Jet Center. “It is a once in 15-to-20-year opportunity for people to stand on the runway with out planes landing and taking off.”
This summer’s construction marks the end of a five-year, $40 million construction project. The eastern half of the runway was resurfaced, the western half of the runway was re-built due to a rapid deterioration of asphalt due because of water flow. Three million yards of dirt was relocated to build a 1,000-foot extension, according to Anderson.
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The runway was extended for planes to reach greater speeds and climb faster, to avoid the surrounding terrain. This acceleration will enable planes to carry more weight including passengers and fuel. With more fuel capacity, planes will be able to fly further. This is particularly important in the summer because the combination of altitude and higher temperatures makes air thinner than in the winter. Thinner air means planes cannot carry as much fuel and can’t fly to the same destinations in the summer as in the winter, said Anderson.
“The longer runway alleviates this problem and the same destinations will be reached,” said Anderson. “This definitely creates a potential of an increased economic impact. What potential is yet to be known.”
An increase in revenue will be welcomed after the airport closure and the down economy.
“We have been really hard hit with the economy and the construction. It was a one-two punch for the airport and local economy. The airport is such a driver for local economies,” said Gordon.
The Vail Valley Jet Center has been operating with restrictions on speed and the wingspan of aircrafts this summer despite the main airport closure. Gordon says business is down about 70 percent from previous years.
“I don’t know how much of this is from the economy and how much is from the construction,” said Gordon. “I will have a better idea when the runway opens. We are really looking forward to Sept. 1 to get this show back on the road.”