Grand Junction Regional Airport: Management travel necessary, officials of other airports say

The role of an airport director most likely means getting out and selling your airport, according to directors in the region.

Greg Phillips, aviation director at Eagle County Airport, said it’s important to get in front of airline representatives to bring service to your local airport, but how much travel is deemed necessary is usually a board decision.

“You’re always talking. Sometimes that happens over the phone,” said Phillips, who has worked as a project manager in the Federal Aviation Administration and as an airport manager in the West for nearly the past decade. “Sometimes that means you have to roll up your sleeves and get in there.”

Eagle County Airport, which offers 10 flights to major cities in the winter season, including New York, Chicago and Dallas, had 204,889 enplanements in 2010. Grand Junction’s airport, in comparison, had 221,826 enplanements that year.

Having the ear of an airline executive can potentially help increase enplanements at an airport, Phillips said. And the more commercial service, the more access to federal dollars. Phillips, who recently attended a conference in Denver designed to put airport consultants in touch with airport executives, said airport boards or agencies that run them have different rules about expenditures. For example, Phillips said he tracks expenses carefully and tries to stay at mid-level hotels, or the hotel hosting a conference to avoid renting a car. Eagle County does not approve alcohol expenses. Other expenses are a balancing act.

“If you purchase a meal, itemize it,” he said. “You just don’t do anything extravagant. I certainly wouldn’t stay at the Ritz Carlton. I wouldn’t take someone to the most expensive restaurant, but I’m not going to take a fairly high-level executive to McDonald’s.”

Airport Director Brian Condie of Garfield County Airport in Rifle said it may be more crucial for directors of noncommercial airports to be the squeaky wheel. Rifle’s airport, which does not have commercial service,  last year finished a decade-long $37 million renovation to extend the runway. Noncommercial airports wait in line after their commercial airport counterparts for federal funding.

Rifle’s airport no doubt was in need of funding with airplanes traveling past the runway and being labeled the most dangerous general aviation airport in the country, Condie said.

“I have no control over the FAA, but I made sure I was in their presence,” he said of visiting with FAA officials between four to eight times a year. “They’ve got hundreds of general aviation airports. I would call them every week.”


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