Proposed Airport Expansion for Kremmling McElroy Airport gets Initial Approval

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Kremmling Airport | Photo Source: CDOT.gov
Kremmling Airport | Photo Source: CDOT.gov

by Tara Walker
A 2019-2020 runway renovation is required by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Kremmling’s McElroy Airport. FAA and Armstrong Consultants encouraged pursuing a possible runway expansion and this was discussed during the November 13 Board of County Commissioners meeting.

County Commissioners agreed to start initial steps for the expansion of the airport from a B-11 to C-11 airport.

Commissioners and officials are not guaranteeing that the expansion will be completed but are starting the process that could lead to an expansion in 2027. Commissioners Linke and Manguso saw the expansion as an economic driver and were strongly in support of an airport expansion while Commissioner Cimino expressed the need for reliable data verifying the need and advantages of this expansion.

The FAA indicated they are willing to contribute a significant amount of the funding, reducing the county’s contribution to 5%. Cost Estimates could vary significantly depending on the length of the runway extension which has not been decided.

Commissioner Kristen Manguso, “Our only concern is getting funding because the county will have to come up with 5%. We need to work towards finding the total cost. Our county is growing with or without this.”
McElroy Airfield is currently a B-II Airport jointly owned and managed by Grand county and the city of Kremmling. The county has hired Armstrong Consultants to assist with management and has a Fixed Based Operator (FBO) contract with Alpine Wings LLC. It is a Class G Uncontrolled Airspace which means it does not have air traffic control. McElroy is seeing an increasing number of ‘C’ aircraft at the airport and estimate 300-400 operations of C aircraft each year, and with even more B aircraft using the runways, safety and the ability of the airport to accommodate the larger C aircraft is becoming questionable. The exact number is unknown, so game cameras are being installed to count and characterize airport traffic, giving better data in the future to aid in decision making.

As a member of the Airport Advisory Board and 50 years of experience as a pilot and instructor, Dennis Carpenter supports the expansion and sees it as an important proactive move for Grand County’s future. He explained that McElroy Airfield has 4 box hangars and 16 T-hangars (10 privately owned, 6 owned by Kremmling). While the airport brings in revenue, the biggest advantage is the people coming in and the money they are spending in the county to invest in ranches and to hunt, fish and ski in the county. Carpenter, “It’s not as much as what the airport brings in as what the people do when they visit the county. We’re a hidden gem.”

Carpenter explained the airport was also seeing more traffic from Netjets, an American company that sells part ownership or shares of private business jets. There are also 25 airplanes at McElroy Airfield. Owners, visitors and pilots have expressed the wish for more runway. He has seen an increase in the traffic to McElroy Airfield as owners prefer the flexibility of the Uncontrolled airspace and policies at Kremmling rather than the busy and more expensive airport in Eagle. He believes McElroy Airfield will be more attractive and competitive with an extended runway to increase the safety and ability of the airport to accommodate the larger C aircraft.
With the proposed expansion, the highway will need to be relocated and the drop off will need to be filled. When looking at the runway length to construct initially, the FAA suggests looking at the benefit/cost of extending the runway in 100’ increments. This will be done to determine what length is the best value for the initial work. Armstrong consultants explained that the FAA will commit to this project and needs the County to commit to their portion of the project. It is anticipated that the extension could happen in approximately 8 years (2027). This estimate is largely dependent on a Master Plan Update, Environmental Assessment, and the relocation of the highway.

Commissioners agreed to move forward with the expansion with the understanding that plans could change if future data or funding concerns prohibits the expansion. Linke stated, “Stakes in the ground, we should move forward. This is a project that takes some foresight and risk and if we do nothing, we won’t get anything. I am for moving forward.”

Cost estimates will need to be updated before funding can be secured on the federal, state, and local levels. Armstrong consultants will update the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), provide an overall project estimate and work on cameras to provide aircraft counts. The county commissioners, airport board and county staff will need to generate support for the possible future local funding that will be needed if this possibility is to become a reality.