Adds to Five-Year Trend
TELLURIDE – The Telluride Regional Airport, TEX, reported a strong increase in general aviation (private aircraft) traffic in December, up 31 percent from December a year ago.
The bump in activity at the airport could signal a trend. Increasing air traffic would be a boon to Telluride’s economy.
General aviation operations have increased since the Great Recession, and are approaching pre-recession levels, according to Matt Skinner, chief operating officer for Colorado Flights Alliance. In 2010, there were 6,230 inbound and outbound flights, 7,160 in 2011, 7,740 in 2012 and 7,958 in 2013.
The number of passengers traveling on those flights has gone up as well, Skinner said. The total number of passengers flying in to Telluride on private aircraft grew 4 percent for the year compared to 2012.
While the traffic from private passengers increased, commercial aviation at TEX remains sluggish.
“That’s where TEX is challenged,” said Skinner, “There’s a combination of regulations and industry trends affecting our commercial options, including a move away from prop planes. At the moment, only a couple of commercially operated aircraft can land at TEX.
“This year,” he went on, “regional airlines were especially impacted by federal regulations that went into effect. The FAA changed the minimum flight time stipulation for co-pilots from 250 hours to 1,500 hours of experience before they could fly. This caused a huge pilot shortage across the country, and directly affected our Great Lakes service.”
Still, said Skinner, Colorado Flights is working with airlines to increase availability of commercial air service, and has been in conversations with Great Lakes about adding TEX flights since well before the winter season.
Starting Jan. 31, Great Lakes Airlines has added a new daily flight from TEX to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and another daily flight from Denver to TEX, bringing the service from twice a day on weekdays to three times daily on weekends. Both flights will operate until early April, the end of the ski season in Telluride.
Increasing flights and passengers arriving at TEX has long been a sought-after goal of the Telluride Tourism Board and CFA.
Michael Martelon, president and CEO of the TTB, attributes the growth in TEX general aviation to good, early snow this season – and good publicity.
“Marketing, including advertising and public relations. And taking home the No. 1 ranking by Conde Nast readers poll doesn’t hurt either,” he added.