Some feel the only answer to eliminating local airplane mishaps is a radar installation, and at the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Friday, the Commissioners agreed.
The recommendation came from members of the newly-formed Airport Advisory Board, which has made the attainment of an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radar installation for the regional airports in Moffat and Routt counties part of its agenda. The issue will be added to the agenda for the legislative session of Colorado Counties Inc., for next year.
Installation of radar would allow the Denver Center ??? to guide the planes to 3,000 feet. Now, contact is lost at 16,000 feet, forcing the planes to be landed by radio and visual guidance. It's an imperfect system, highlighted by the recent accidental landing of a TWA DC-80 airplane at Craig/Moffat Airport. The radar installation would be funded, built, maintained and operated by the FAA.
"We are just now approaching the FAA to begin discussions. I have no idea at this time how long the process could take," Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said.
It could be a process where the need is clearly seen and addressed relatively quickly, or a longer process which involves more negotiations and debate, she said.
"Routt County has been very supportive in assisting us in evaluating our needs, and working toward getting the FAA radar for both our counties," Raftopoulos said.
The next meeting between the Routt and Moffat county commissioners is scheduled for mid-May, and one of the main topics of discussion will be acquiring an FAA radar for this area, Raftopoulos said.
"This is probably going to be very difficult as a justification," said Jim Parker, Director of Yampa Valley Regional Airport. "It's worth the effort to discuss it with the FAA, but it is not something easily or quickly funded. These installations are expensive, not only to install, but to maintain."
The FAA will evaluate the number of flights affected, safety issues, and how the system would help the Denver Center land flights more frequently and efficiently. A cost versus benefit analysis will also be done, Parker said.
As the system stands now, only one plane can land one plane at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, the Bob Adams Field or the Craig/Moffat County Airport at a time because of the proximity of the three airports. The new radar would speed up this process up considerably, and reduce problems Parker said.
"This is something we should pursue, but it's going to be an uphill battle."