TELLURIDE – The Telluride Regional Airport Association Board of Directors last week voted to establish a new two-person committee to further investigate possible expansion of winter operating hours.
Boardmembers John Steel and Jon Dwight will work with Airport Manager Rich Nuttall and legal counsel Bob Erie to “look at all the different options,” said Board Chairman John Micetic.
Micetic will step down as chairman in December, but remain on the board.
The vote came at the suggestion of Micetic and Vice-Chairman Ed Roufa following, but unrelated to, the board’s executive session with airport law specialist Peter J. Kirsch of the Denver law firm Kaplan Kirsch and Rockwell, who is advising the board.
“They did not set a time frame” by which they are expected to report back, Micetic said of the committee.
The present curfew for both commercial and general aviation flights extends from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, year-round. As a result, summer flights can land as late as 9 p.m. while winter flights terminate as early as 5:20 p.m. on the shortest days of the year.
The board is trying to understand whether extending commercial air service into the airport until as late as 10 p.m. during the winter months would have the unintended consequence of also opening the airport to general aviation during the same hours.
The board also voted to retain a proposed $1.5 million terminal expansion in its 2011 budget for construction next year, but will not trigger the project without a guarantee of service by larger aircraft than those currently serving the airport.
“We’re not going to move forward without a guarantee that someone is going to come in with a plane over 60 passengers,” said Micetic.
In that case, airport security would need to be almost tripled to accommodate increased passenger traffic, and baggage, storage and ticketing areas would need to be enlarged.
Rental car counters would remain at the airport, although they would likely move to a different location, and runway aprons for general aviation parking would also need to be expanded as a result of the terminal work.
“We don’t want to lose revenue from parking planes,” said Micetic.
He said the board would wait until its June 2011 meeting before making a decision, which will still give it enough time to complete the expansion for the 2011/2012 ski season.
“The work would take three months,” he said.
“There would be no airport closures.”