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ARCHIVED  November 5, 1999

Private pilots populate local airport

If you see a plane taking off from the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport, chances are it’s a private plane out for a pleasure trip.

The airport is a nexus for private pilots along the Front Range. Airport Director Fred Anderton estimates that of the 45,000 takeoffs that occurred there last year, about 40,000 of them were private planes out for a jaunt or a vacation.

“I’d say about 80,000 operations (landings and takeoffs) are done by aircraft other than corporate flights,” Anderton said. “And we have less than 100 commercial flights a year, so I’d say about 89 percent of our traffic here is private.”

That’s a change from when Anderton first arrived at Fort Collins-Loveland Airport in 1991. Back then, the facility had 100 aircraft based there and most of the traffic was flight training. Now there are 200 planes based at FC-LA and the traffic is primarily a mix of private and corporate planes.

“About 10 percent of the private pilots keep the planes for personal travel,” Anderton said. “Eighty to 90 percent are guys who fly around the community and probably never go more than one state away from Colorado. Most of the guys fly about one to two hours. A lot of them fly over to the Greeley airport to eat at the snack bar they have over there.”

“The clichÈ is åthe $100 hamburger,´ said Mike Myshatyn, an engineering manager at Hewlett-Packard and operator of Majestic Aviation LLC. The appeal in flying to Greeley for something you could get a lot cheaper at a restaurant a few blocks away is obviously not the food. “My wife and I and our son like the camaraderie,” Myshatyn said. “We can share stories about your plane and about your business.”

Myshatyn’s interest in aviation straddles business and pleasure. Majestic Aviation is an aircraft holding company, which purchases aircraft and leases them back to flight schools. The company also produced flight manuals and other aviation books. Myshatyn and his wife, who is also a pilot, spend about 50 to 100 hours a year in their 32-year-old Beechcraft Bonanza.

“It’s really to go visit different places we haven’t been,” Myshatyn said. “We can go to Rapid City, and see Mount Rushmore because my son hasn’t seen it. Now we can get into the car and drive for six hours, or we can take the plane and turn it into a day trip. We’ll be back for dinner.”

Anderton thinks the changes are due to two factors, a rise in the region’s population and the number of hangars available at the airport. In 1991, the airport had 81,350 square feet of aircraft storage space. Since then 98,200 square feet has been added, along with four corporate hangars in the private airpark.

“I think it’s a function of population growth,” Anderton said. “You’ll pick up a certain number of people flying with every increase.” For the Fort Collins-Loveland area, Federal Aviation Administration formulas estimate that with every 1,000 people that move into the area, seven are pilots.

Fort Collins Assistant City Manager and airport liaison Frank Bruno adds that private pilots are using the airport more because of its regular maintenance service, the 8,500-foot runway and the presence of jetCenter Inc., the airport’s Fixed Base Operator. An FBO takes care of aircraft repair, fueling and regular maintenance. jetCenter’s record is extremely good.

“That word gets around,” Bruno said.

Anderton said that as popular as private flights are at FC-LA, it is the corporate flights that will probably increase in coming years. The proposed construction of the Global Technology Center near the intersection of Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34, as well as the Fort Collins-Loveland Airport Industrial Park, Centergy Industrial Park and other developments along the I-25 corridor, promises to bring about a hike in the number of corporate planes in the region.

“They’re also building more of those planes than any other type,” Anderton said.

Bruno envisions FC-LA evolving into regional commuter service, offering flights to relatively close cities such as Salt Lake City, but he adds, “that’s way in the future.”

Right now the future of regional commercial aviation, at least in this part of the country, is iffy at best, Anderton said. His explanation is that carriers are doing very well in the larger markets on both coasts, particularly the East Coast. They have little incentive to move into smaller markets such as Fort Collins-Loveland.

Currently, Fort Collins and Loveland each pay $60,000 annually to manage the airport. That money is augmented by federal matching grants. Bruno said Fort Collins’ goal is to see the airport stand on its own.

“We want to see this become an enterprise,” Bruno said. “The more aircraft we see, the more it will be self-sufficient.”

If you see a plane taking off from the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport, chances are it’s a private plane out for a pleasure trip.

The airport is a nexus for private pilots along the Front Range. Airport Director Fred Anderton estimates that of the 45,000 takeoffs that occurred there last year, about 40,000 of them were private planes out for a jaunt or a vacation.

“I’d say about 80,000 operations (landings and takeoffs) are done by aircraft other than corporate flights,” Anderton said. “And we have less than 100 commercial flights a year, so I’d say about 89 percent of our traffic…

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