New airport manager touches down in Steamboat
Steamboat Springs — Many people spend a good portion of their life figuring out how they want to spend the rest of it.
Others, such as Stacie Fain, Steamboat Springs Airport’s new manager, have always known.
“My grandfather was a pioneer pilot for Braniff, and he did all the routes in South America and taught my mother to fly before she could drive,” Fain said Monday, only a week into her new role as head of Steamboat’s local airport. “I don’t remember when I got on my first airplane; I was probably about 2.”
Her grandfather’s flight story is a story unto itself. A barnstormer, he financed his own flight lessons by wing walking, Fain said, adding that some of her earliest memories are of attending airshows with him.
“I grew up in a family of aviators,” she said.
Beginning her own flight career in 1988, she has since amassed a soaring resume.
Certified as a private pilot, a commercial pilot and a flight instructor, Fain — who holds a master’s degree in aviation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is currently working toward her Ph.D. in aviation — also spent about six years flying helicopters for the U.S. Coast Guard and still serves as a commander/captain select in the Coast Guard Reserve.
A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Fain spent the past 12 years in Colorado Springs working as owner, president and consultant for Ruby Aviation. Prior to that, she worked in business development for defense contractors.
Not surprisingly, the hiring panel tasked with engaging a new airport manager was unanimous in its decision to hire Fain from among 61 original candidates.
City Manager Gary Suiter said both her experience and community mindedness made her the best fit for the job.
“We had a lot of great candidates,” Suiter said Monday. “What came across to me is that she obviously has the skills and experience, but more than that, she’s community-minded. She understands the Western Slope and our economy, and we’re thrilled to have her aboard.”
And Fain is clearly thrilled to be aboard. She said she was attracted to the job both by the active Steamboat lifestyle and the caliber of its airport.
“I’ve always wanted to live in a small ski town, and I just found Steamboat to be charming,” she said. “When I saw the job opening here, I did a little bit of research on the airport and discovered what a gem it is, so I applied, and I was just thrilled when I got the opportunity to do this job.”
Describing the airport as “a diamond in the rough,” a phrase coined by Public Works Director Chuck Anderson, Fain said she wants to heighten community awareness of how crucial the airport is to Steamboat, both in terms of financial impact and quality of life.
“It really is a ‘diamond in the rough,’” she said. “It has a huge impact on the city of Steamboat Springs, but a lot of people don’t realize it. The economic impact is $8.8 million on the city, and it’s subsidized very little. … it’s just a great asset.”
Beyond the financial benefits, Fain added the airport — which currently accommodates 100 airplanes on the field — also serves as an educational hub for pilot instruction, a base for civil air patrol and emergency medical service operations and a staging area for aerial firefighting.
“I’m not here to make big changes to the airport, because it’s a wonderful airport,” she said. “I just am here to help add a few things that will make it a little bit better.”
Among her planned improvements, Fain wants to explore the possibility of adding a city-owned transient hangar — something the airport currently lacks and for which there is significant demand — as well as look into adding self-service fuel, another high-demand item.
She also wants to look into restructuring the airport’s ramp fees in an effort to attract more small, general-aviation aircraft to the city.
Finally, she said, she is committed to making the community aware of the tremendous asset it has in the airport.
“The reputation of this airport is so good, and the crew is so good,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful little airport.”
Having relocated to Steamboat with Rex, the Airport Dog, her canine companion and “co-pilot” for the past six years, Fain enjoys skiing, hiking, camping, yoga, gardening and reading.
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