Spotlight on a committee member
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Steve Shute thinks the Glenwood Springs Airport runway is big.
“Pilots always talk about the runway in Glenwood being so short,” he said.
But he chuckles recalling how it’s twice as long and wide as the strip he learned to fly on at a family farm in Kansas at age 19.
Perhaps its a love of flying he’s developed since then that keeps him interested in serving on the Glenwood Springs Airport Advisory Board. For Shute, it’s a way to have input into a specific issue important to him while avoiding the full responsibility and time commitment of serving on the city council. This is true of the 11 or more other advisory boards and committees for Glenwood Springs.
“Some people are just interested in one or two or three things about the city government,” he said. “If you’re passionate about some topic than this is a great way to have some influence on it. Being a council member is nearly a full time job.”
The airport advisory board requires no more than about four hours a month, Shute said. And he enjoys it enough that it never really seemed to cut into personal time.
“There hasn’t been any time ever where this community responsibility has been a burden,” Shute said.
The board is made up mostly of pilots and some others interested in the airport. It makes recommendations to the city council regarding issues surrounding the airport. The board works on capitol projects to benefit the airport and tries to find out ways to fund them.
Funding comes largely from the airport’s enterprise fund and state grants. The enterprise fund’s revenue comes from airport fuel sales tax of 80 cents per gallon and user fees of $400 per year for each aircraft.
“As far as the city goes, our budget is just a rounding error,” Shute said, adding that it’s well under $100,000 a year.
The board has obtained funding for a number of developments since 2000. There’s a new fuel system that allows self-service with a credit card. There was also a radio feature installed which allows pilots to click their microphones three times in the air or on the ground to hear a weather and air traffic report.
“That’s a pretty big deal for an unattended airport,” Shute said.
The board also funded a precision approach path indicator (PAPI) light system for landings. Lights near the runway act as a glide slope reference for pilots.
That wouldn’t matter for any other airport, Shute said, but at the Glenwood Springs Airport the normal glide slope of three degrees is too low. The PAPI light system can increase landing safety ” especially for visiting pilots.
Keeping the airport open has also been a struggle for at least the past five years, Shute said. Some have questioned whether the airport was the best land use for the spot in a town that has little room to grow. An ad hoc committee was formed in 2003 or 2004 to discuss possible closure of the airport around the time the area was being looked at for a new school facility, Shute said.
Shute agreed to join the board in 2002 when another member was leaving and asked him to do it since he’d been flying a lot. He uses the airport for his job. An engineer, he flies to places like Walden or Pinedale, near Jackson Hole, Wyo. to check out gas utilities.
But he also said the Eagle County Airport and Aspen Airport are set up for corporate jets and don’t really accommodate small single-engine airplanes. He said there’s no place to rent airplanes in the area, so people must own them. In addition, he said there’s limited hangar space at other area airports without paying $300 or $400 a night for a spot. Plus, he believes an airport is a vital part of any town, comparing it to a hospital or a middle school.
“From my perspective, every town of 1,000 or more has an airport,” he said. “Any town that’s anything has an airport.”
Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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