Mountain News 

Eagle begins work on longer runway

EAGLE, Colo. — The dirt is flying in the Eagle-Gypsum area, where the runway for the Eagle County Regional Airport is being extended by 1,000 feet. To extend the runway, the terrace upon which the runway is located must also be extended, which means hauling 2.5 million cubic yards.

This will give airplanes more tarmac time before lifting off, which means they can carry more passengers and cargo. This is particularly crucial during summer months, when planes have greater difficulty getting loft in the warm air.

The bottom line is that more passengers and cargo allows a broader profit margin, which should mean increased passenger service in years ahead. The airport services primarily the Vail area, although a substantial number of Aspen visitors also use the airport. Airport officials believe that Summit County will also use the airport more in years ahead.

The runway is targeted for completion next year. Also expected for installation by next year is a radar system that will allow tighter spacing between arrivals and departures of planes. That will allow an airport that is already considered Colorado’s second busiest during winter months to become even busier.

As is usual, the money for these improvements is mostly coming from the federal government, which levies taxes on plane tickets and fuel sales.

Christmas wishes for 2007

MAMMOTH LAKE, Calif. — For about 15 years Mammoth has been trying to get a major air portal, similar to those of Jackson Hole, Steamboat, and Vail. It’s still trying.

A Federal Aviation Administration official says an environmental impact statement will be completed within a year that presumably will see fit to allow a handful of 80-passenger regional jets daily from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, or altogether about 70,000 passengers annually. The expectation is that this will begin by December 2007.

But most destination resorts can handle larger planes, big-payload 757s that could deliver passengers from Dallas and Chicago. That will take a different EIS. Mammoth Lakes, the ski area, and the FAA tried before, but chose a lower hurdle, called an environmental assessment. Earth Justice, the legal arm of the Sierra Club, as well as the state of California argued that the document was insufficient, and courts sided with them.

An outside possibility is for scheduled air service into Bishop, 42 miles away. That’s not much farther than airports for Steamboat and Vail, but for now Mammoth doesn’t want to go that way. The latest thinking, reports The Sheet, is that a major airport remains six or seven years away.

Tax considered to secure flights

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