TELLURIDE – The Federal Aviation Administration has decided to waive its 10,000 enplanements rule for the Telluride Regional Airport so it may continue to receive upwards of $1 million in entitlement funding needed for airport improvements.
The Telluride Regional Airport’s funding was in jeopardy after the airport did not meet the FAA’s enplanement rule in 2009 because it closed from April 7 to Nov. 4 for its runway reconstruction project. Under the rule, if a rural airport drops below 10,000 enplanements, it loses entitlement funds, which are critical to airport improvements like the runway reconstruction project. The FAA decided earlier this week to waive the enplanement rule for the Telluride airport.
“This was very important to provide adequate funding for Phase II,” Airport Manager Rich Nuttall said on Wednesday. “These funds were needed to meet part of the project costs. Since the airport was closed for the runway project, it makes sense that the FAA would grant us a waiver to the 10,000 enplanements.”
Without closures, the airport averages about 12,000 enplanements a year, based on the current level of service. Nuttall said that airport officials have had on-going discussion with the FAA regarding the issue and have been waiting for an answer for almost a year.
“We would only have lost our entitlement funds this year, and for as long as we continued to have less than 10,000 enplanements in succeeding years,” Nuttall said. “However, losing the funding this year due to the closure last year would have left us short of the needed funding for Phase II.”
The $23 million phase closed the airport for seven months, during which time peak crews of up to 85 workers rearranged more than 1 million cubic yards of dirt, leveling the concave dip in the banana-shaped runway.
U.S. Rep. John Salazar, concerned that the airport could lose its funding, did his part by sending an Oct. 5 letter to FAA Administrator Randolph Babbitt asking the FAA to waive the enplanement rule.
“Having to close an airport for such a long time wreaked havoc on their normal operations and made the requirement of 10,000 enplanements impossible,” Salazar wrote in his letter. “Therefore, I ask that the FAA not penalize Telluride Airport for making safety improvements to their runway, and waive the 10,000 enplanement rule due to the fact that they had to close for seven months.”
Upon hearing that the FAA did decide to waive the rule a week later, Salazar praised the FAA for its quick response.
“This support from the FAA is critical to the sustainability of small airports like this one,” Salazar said. “The FAA has recognized the great lengths that the Telluride Airport has gone to improve runway safety and the continued funding is great news for the entire community.”
Nuttall thanked Salazar for his work in helping to secure the funding in jeopardy.
“Congressman Salazar has been a tremendous help to the aviation community in Colorado, and we at the Telluride Regional Airport would like to thank Congressman Salazar for his continued support of the Telluride Regional Airport,” Nuttall said.