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City to review airport leases

Avi Salzman

— With only 10 city-owned hangars at Steamboat Springs Airport, the city is trying to get pilots who do not fly very often to get their planes in the air or get their wallets out of their pockets.

The City Council will vote tonight on whether to renew lease agreements with eight of the 10 lessees under a new lease agreement that would make those lessees buy fuel and use their airplanes or face extra charges for inactivity. The leases will have to be voted on a second time to be approved.

Airport Manager Matt Grow has pushed for more hangar space in the past year at an airport that is short both on cash and indoor space for private airplanes. With the previous City Council reluctant to sign deals with private contractors interested in building hangars or to build more city hangars, the city has a waiting list 45 names long for spots. Many operators who use their planes as often as every other day have to park them outside, where they can become covered in ice or snow, Grow said.

That’s one reason why Grow wants to penalize people who are just using the hangars as long-term storage facilities and not buying fuel.

“In one way I’d like to reward people who are using their airplanes and buying fuel from me,” Grow said. “Maybe it sends a point across: Use your airplane.”

Lessees would be subject to fines if they did not buy at least 300 gallons of fuel which would apply to five of the eight pilots at this point in the year if they do not purchase any more fuel from the city over the course of a year. The city operates a fixed-base operation at the airport, which sells aviation fuel to plane owners and businesses.

The fine would be calculated by subtracting the amount of gallons actually purchased from 300 and charging the pilot for the cost of the fuel he or she would have bought if he or she had actually purchased 300 gallons of fuel as of Dec. 31 of the year in question.

For instance, a pilot who buys 100 gallons of fuel in a year would be charged for the 200 gallons he or she did not purchase from the city, which, at the current rate of 2.50 a gallon, would come out to $500.

Lease rates will also rise by a few percentage points, to $500 per month in most cases.

Some pilots find the new gas policy irrational.

“Keeping track of how much gas people are using just seems silly,” said Dennis Swanson, who owns an airplane currently in a city hangar. “It just seems kind of like a Mickey Mouse arrangement.”

Another pilot who uses his airplanes for business said he likes the idea, though he would not be affected by the gas purchase requirement.

“We’ve got airplanes up there that aren’t flying at all,” said Bob Maddox, the owner of Mountain Flight Services.

“I think it’s a good attempt to make sure the people who are using the airplane hangars are actually using their airplanes.”


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