By Jeff Price
After nearly a five-year hiatus, Dave Gordon, former longtime manager of Jefferson County Airport, is back at the helm, this time farther north of the Denver area at Ft. Collins/Loveland Airport.
“It’s good to be running an airport again,” says Gordon, who feels things are already busy, but going well. “There are a lot of things that we’re going to be doing here.”
With the rapid growth of the northwest Interstate 25 corridor, virtually anything is possible. Scheduled service, a growing corporate base of operations, a minor league hockey team? It’s possibly, all in due time, says Gordon. But first, the airport will take on its first master plan update in 12 years.
“We’re starting a new master plan in the very near future; so many things are changing at the airport,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more corporate traffic and large charters coming in. The airport has done a lot of developing and we need more hangars, and space for new businesses.”
In fact, Gordon feels that the biggest challenge will be getting enough federal and matching funds to complete all the still needed development. A majority of those funds will come from the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The FAA is glad to see a class person back in the airport management business,” noted Alan Wiechmann, director of the FAA’s Airport District Office in Denver. “Dave has always pursued his goals with complete professionalism.”
After securing funds, the next challenge will be getting infrastructure developed on the airport, of which Ft. Collins and Loveland equally share ownership, so it can continue its growth path. With budgets already tight,
Gordon wonders how much money the cities can give to the airport for expansion.
However, he does see and enjoy a lot of support for the airport from both.
“They want to see it continue to grow and they have good land use controls around the airport; it’s pretty well protected. So my challenge is just to get as much happening as quick as I can and find a way to pay for it,” he notes.
The airport, which used to host scheduled air carrier service, has approximately 110,000 annual operations, but the lack of a control tower makes it difficult to get an accurate count. The master plan will do a selection study for a new tower, and Gordon says the airport is talking to two groups about restoring scheduled service.
The airport’s runway, which is 8,500 feet long and 100 feet wide, is serviced with high intensity lighting and an instrument landing system. The airspace is outside of Denver’s Class-B airspace and was not affected by the shutdown that affected airports near nuclear facilities in November 2001.
Since the airport is certified Part 139 for air carrier service, on-site Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting services are also present. The airport is located approximately 55 miles north of Denver, just west of I-25.
Gordon describes the airport staff as “lean and mean.”
“We have a very small staff but we get a lot done for just a handful of people,” he said.
The only fixed base operation is the Ft. Collins/Loveland jetCenter, part of the large jetCenter chain, with other bases at Centennial Airport, Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs.
All the usual jetCenter amenities are available including free WSI weather briefings, flight planning facilities, professional catering, free coffee and ice, cabin cleaning and lavatory service. Rental cars, nearby accommodations and golf courses, plus charter, aircraft repair service and de-icing services are on hand. A remodeled and expanded executive aviation terminal has a passenger lounge and a separate pilot’s lounge, as well as comfortable conference room facilities.
“They’re doing very well—more traffic coming in all the time,” says Gordon. “We have two flight schools on the field and we also have a company called Firewall Forward that does a lot of engines and accessories maintenance.
They’re just completing a test for a new design on a camshaft for the engines that are in the Beechcraft Duke. The tests are showing that they’re improving the life of the camshaft, which had been a problem.”
Gordon says Firewall Forward has big expansion plans, beyond aircraft maintenance, into large charters and jet charter business.
The airport has approximately 150 based aircraft with about a 20 percent mix of corporate aviation, and 80 percent smaller general aviation. Gordon notes that the corporate side is growing faster than any other segment.
So where does the minor league hockey team come in? The new Larimer County fairgrounds project includes a large event center and Gordon notes that may include a minor league hockey team.
“It’s just right across from the airport on I-25,” he said. “We think that’s going to bring in some activity and more flights. The whole area between Loveland and Ft. Collins is just growing. We have our own growth up there and the airport’s going to play an important role—in economic development.”
Gordon is back in airport management after five years of being out of the director’s seat. He was the airport manager at Jeffco for 25 years, until the fall of 1998. Throughout that time he also served on the Colorado Aeronautics Board and became not only an accredited aviation executive through the American Association of Airport Executives, but also was on the review panel for other accreditation candidates.
In May 1991, he started the Gordon Consulting Group and headed west to Aspen/Pitkin County Airport as the interim airport director. He stayed in Aspen through the end of 2001 as both interim airport director and special projects coordinator. He then started working at Ft. Collins/Loveland as the interim airport director, and was officially appointed to the position Dec. 18, 2002.
Gordon has been an integral part of the state’s aviation and airport system for a long time.
“We are very happy to have Dave Gordon back as an airport manager in the state,” says Travis Vallin, director of the State Division of Aeronautics. “Dave has so much historical knowledge about aviation in Colorado as he was instrumental in developing the legislative language that created the Colorado Aeronautics Division and the Colorado Aeronautical Board. He will be very beneficial for Fort Collins/Loveland Airport.”
Gordon hopes to have a consultant selected for the master plan update in the next few months, but for now he’s just excited about being back at the helm.
“It’s pretty exciting. One thing I really like about getting the job up there is there’s a lot to be done and a good airport manager always like to have some part of the airport torn up at all times,” Gordon jokes. “Its part of the job description: ‘Must like to build things continually.'”