Thu April 26, 2012

Boulder-area Airports Seek to Improve Safety

The skies over Boulder and Broomfield have been quite crowded lately with airplanes, gliders and hot air balloons flying overhead. But, a recent mid-air collision has area pilots and airport managers in Boulder County working to improve safety.

Boulder Municipal Airport has decided to establish an “alert” area around the airport that would be listed on maps, including those used in airplane cockpits, when pilots fly within a certain range so they aware they’re more likely to encounter other airplanes.

The most-recent accident last month near Longmont that killed a student pilot and instructor has gotten the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Chris Wood with the Boulder County Business Report says area pilots have been invited to participate in an FAA presentation on collision avoidance. They’re also being advised to apply for a new FAA radio frequency channel on which all local aviation communications will be broadcast.

This most recent collision over Longmont also involved a very experience pilot, who did survive. Wood says it’s hard to tell whether the new safety measures would have been able to prevent the air collision. But he says pilots and other aviation experts are eager to make any changes that could improve safety and reduce the risk of accidents like the one that occurred over Boulder in 2010.

“One other idea is for flight schools in and around Boulder to use less-congested airspace between Loveland and Longmont. That would require more flight time, but supporters say instructor pilots could conduct additional training of their students and they’re flying north,” Wood says.

The owner of Broomfield-based Colorado HeliOps has also released plans to create a new website that will be used to outline designated practices areas for the region along with the radio frequencies used by local pilots and the most common elevations that they fly. 

Wood says increasing safety is all the more important when looking at the role aviation plays in boosting the local economy. 

“A recent Colorado Department of Transportation study of the economic impact of general-aviation visitors to Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, as well as the Boulder, Erie and Vance Brand airports came in at $74 million dollars, with about 1,000 employees working at the four airports,” Wood says.

Flight-school instructors along with other pilots and municipal-airport officials held their most recent forum on improving safety at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield.