SLV Regional Airport: the sky is no longer the limit

A celebration of all that has been accomplished during the ribbon cutting ceremony at SLV Regional Airport. Three men standing front and slightly to the right of center are (left to right): Airport Manager Will Hickman, Pilot and Director of Business Development for Denver Air Connection Jon Coleman and owner of Country Car Rentals Brad Patterson. Photo by Priscilla Waggoner

ALAMOSA– Sometimes, when groups of people work together toward a common vision and are determined to accomplish what they have set out to do, even the sky isn’t the limit. That was just one takeaway from a ribbon cutting ceremony held at SLV Regional Airport on Tuesday.

“We’re celebrating the completion of three big accomplishments,” said Airport Manager Will Hickman, addressing a crowd of local elected officials, community leaders, agency representatives and stakeholders.

After a significant investment of time, energy, and resources from a myriad of organizations, agencies and companies, SLV Regional Airport has completed the construction of a new Fuel Farm.

“In 2018, the airport had a functioning fuel farm,” Hickman said, “but it had issues, and there was a problem with state compliance.” Hickman credited Gigi Dennis, who – in her role as Alamosa County Administrator at that time – was successful in negotiating with the state sufficient time for the airport to remedy the situation by construction of a new Fuel Farm.

“The problem was the airport had above ground fuel tanks that were supposed to be used below ground,” Dennis told the Valley Courier after the ceremony. “The Oil and Gas Division is under the Dept. of Labor.  When I came in 2015, the state wanted to shut them down, but I asked the state to hold off and promised we would get the tanks replaced. We needed more time to get funding.

“CDOT funded half of the project. We then leveraged that half with DOLA and got another 25 percent. The county had the remainder of the funds, but we were still short. That is when I asked CHFA for funding help and tied it to economic development and vitality for the benefit of the SLV and the airport being a regional airport. Together, we got it done.”

With construction now complete, SLV Regional Airport now has a 12,000-gallon Jet A fuel tank, the kind of fuel most commonly used in commercial aviation, and a 12,000- gallon tank of Afgas, the most common type of fuel used in piston engine aircraft.

Having sufficient fuel on hand to service both jet engine and piston engine aircraft is required if an airport is going to meet the standards of a Class 1 Commercial Service Airport.

Hickman expressed his thanks to a long list of organizations who were instrumental in constructing the new Fuel Farm, not the least of which was CDOT Aviation, who funded much of the project, along with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the county of Alamosa and the Colorado Housing and Financing Authority. Other thanks went to private companies, including JV Aviation, Eaton Metals, ALCON Construction, Centric Air as well as those who serve on the Airport Advisory Board.

Those who chose to address the crowd had a common theme to many of their comments. The airport has gone through great transformation and it barely resembles how it used to be and is a crucial tool for the entire valley, bringing both improved access and the potential for new economic growth.

And much of that was made possible by the new Fuel Farm. 

“If you don’t have fuel, you don’t have an airport,” said Roni Wisdom, Alamosa County Administrator.

The second cause for celebration related to the presence of Denver Air Connection, who was awarded a two-year contract with the Department of Transportation to provide passenger air service between the San Luis Valley Regional Airport and Denver, 12 nonstop round trips per week. The new service began on June 8.

Jon Coleman, airline pilot and Director of Business Development, praised the relationship and his Denver Air Connection’s ongoing presence in the valley.

“I’m the captain on the 145,” he said, “and flying into the valley and over the Great Sand Dunes, it’s just a beautiful flight,” he said. “I love it. If you haven’t taken a flight yet, you should do it. It’s beautiful.”

The “145” he referenced is a 50-seat ERJ-145 aircraft.

Switching hats to his role as director of business development, Coleman added that he was interested in expanding flights to possibly include Salida.

Finally, the ceremony celebrated the addition of a rental car service at SLV Regional Airport.

Brad Patterson, owner of Country Car Rental, expressed excitement at opening an operation at the airport and spoke highly of the facility and the need for rental car service.

“They used to say, ‘if you’re flying into Alamosa, make sure to bring your thumbs.’ They don’t have to say that anymore.”

Patterson also shared that he has a history in public transportation, an experience that taught him how many rural communities are lacking the presence of a rental car agency.

“Things happen. Cars break down or people want to take a different vehicle other than their own on a trip. Travelling a couple of hours to rent a car kind of defeats the purpose. That’s just one of the reasons we’re glad to be here and servicing the valley.”

Patterson currently has a fleet of twelve cars and a pick-up truck available to rent.

In closing, Alamosa County Commissioner Michael Yohn, who will be leaving office in November, spoke of the tremendous co-operative effort that was involved in getting the airport to its status and level of service. He mentioned the challenges along the way, the disagreements that were resolved and the general determination to accomplish what was set out to do.

But Commissioner Yohn gave much of the credit to Will Hickman. “You said you’d get us here, Will,” he told the airport manager. “And you did it.”

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