Private traffic crowds out Air Force at Colo. airport, leading to drop in annual fee
The Pueblo Chieftain
PUEBLO, Colo. — How can an airport be so busy it’s going broke?
City Council is asking that question after the Air Force announced it’s virtually eliminating its annual $554,000 fee to Pueblo Memorial Airport next year for the C-130 transports that have flown “touch-and-go” landings there for years. The Air Force wants to pay $29,000 instead.
Council President Chris Kaufman said the Air Force has been crowded out by Doss Aviation, the private contractor with a Defense Department contract to do initial flight training for new Air Force pilots and navigators at its Pueblo airport facility.
Doss airplanes use the runways six days a week, logging about 1,100 takeoffs and landings per day. So the Air Force C-130 transports are now using other airports. By comparison, Doss pays the airport about $75,000 a year in fees and fuel taxes. “I don’t think Doss intended this to happen, but it makes money by training every pilot it can and it’s keeping the runways busy,” Kaufman said.
Efforts to contact Doss officials were unsuccessful Tuesday. The company was recruited here seven years ago by the Pueblo Economic Development Corp.
Council is worried enough about the lost revenue that it has turned to the state’s congressional delegation for help. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and said he was “surprised and very disappointed” at the Air Force’s decision to shrink its payment next year to just $29,000.
“I will be making a point to Air Force leaders and urging them to reconsider their decision,” Udall said in a statement.
Council took a hard look Monday night at losing the Air Force money. One option they are considering is closing the fire department’s airport station. That would save about $1 million a year. Whether Doss could continue to operate without a fire station at hand was unknown Tuesday.
“We’re committed to provide fire services in a minimum response time, but I don’t think we have to have a station at the airport,” Kaufman said.