Hayden airport adds system to promote greater operational safety, efficiency

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden is getting another upgrade just in time for the busy ski season.

A new situational awareness system will allow airport officials to better track planes and other vehicles on the ground and give them more accurate information about the location of incoming aircraft.

The new system should be in place by mid-December, when traffic at the airport surges from the two round-trip flights it has now to as many as 24 round-trip flights a day.

“It is the busy season that drives us to enhance our operations,” said Kevin Booth, airport director.

Approved by the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, the new system’s price tag of about $250,000 covers the hardware and licensing to the software the system requires for three years.

The new system will utilize plane location data from the Federal Aviation Administration, which Booth says is more accurate than data from commercial flight tracker applications currently being used.

“We will get the most accurate, up to date data on where airplanes are, and that includes when they are on the ground here,” Booth said, adding that using the FAA gives them the highest quality data available.

In addition to tracking planes, the new system puts GPS trackers on all the equipment used around the runway. This allows operations personnel to inform incoming aircraft of any work they may be doing around the runway, such as snow removal, without having to close the airport.

Currently, the airport uses a radio system to track vehicles on the ground and give maintenance and other workers clearance to move around or cross the tarmac. 

The new system streamlines the process, allowing operators in the airport’s operations center to see the locations of planes and other vehicles on a screen, rather than having to see them visually on the roughly 2-mile-long runway.

“This way, they will not be reliant on me telling them where I am or being able to see out the window where I am,” Booth said.

The new system will be a selling point when trying to get more flights to service Yampa Valley, but the airport is already a popular destination, Booth said.

The system is just one of several upgrades the airport has seen in recent months. Expansion to the ticketing area and the addition of another holding area to accommodate new flights from Southwest Airlines are nearing completion.

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