Corporate Jets Move to Suburban Airport Following Opening of Denver International

FEBRUARY 23, 1997

The Rocky Mountain News (Marlys Duran) reports that the suburban general aviation airports near Denver International Airport report booming business and excellent future prospects. Centennial Airport has experienced significant growth, but also has begun to garner serious noise complaints.

The article says that the Centennial, Jefferson County, and Front Range airports have experienced growth since the Denver International Airport (DIA) opened two years ago. Corporate jets once located at Stapleton airport have transferred to Centennial and Jefferson County airports instead of moving to DIA, which was less convenient and more expensive for many. Meanwhile, many single-engine fliers have relocated to the Front Range Airport. All three airfields say their future prospects are excellent.

According to the article, jet aircraft based at Centennial Airport in 1992 numbered 34, but by 1996, they had nearly doubled to 61. Officials predict that trend will continue, with 90 jets based at the airport by 2005. Centennial executive director Don Crandall said the influx of corporate jets began in summer 1993, a few months before DIA was originally scheduled to open. Between then and February 1995, when DIA actually opened, at least half of the additional jets at Centennial had relocated from Stapleton International Airport, Crandall said. Centennial was an attractive alternative to DIA for corporate jets because landing fees are significantly higher at DIA than they were at Stapleton. Centennial, however, charges no landing fees, according to County Commissioner Polly Page, who heads the Arapahoe County Public Airport Authority. In addition, Page said, DIA was too distant for many business people. Centennial has also experienced increased use by jets based elsewhere, Crandall said. This increase in jet traffic also has meant increased revenues for the airport from jet fuel sales, which rose from about 3 million gallons in 1992 to 6.5 million gallons in 1996. Centennial gets about 16 cents from each gallon of jet fuel sales. Centennial now ranks as the nation's second busiest general aviation airport.

Meanwhile, noise complaints are growing at Centennial Airport. County Commissioner Page said this is no surprise because jets create more of a noise impact than propeller planes. Complaints have grown from 429 in 1993 to 2,995 in 1996, the article reports. Compounding the noise problem are the more restrictive flight patterns imposed on Centennial aircraft since DIA opened, the article says. For example, eastbound planes leaving Centennial must either fly beneath DIA's north-south flight corridor at less than 2,000 feet or take off to the north and turn eastward over the top of the DIA corridor, Crandall said. The north route takes planes over upscale subdivisions in Greenwood Village, according to the article.

Last year, changes in federal law gave Centennial officials more power to prohibit scheduled airline service, the article reports. However, while the airport has fought scheduled service for years, the battle remains unresolved, and its outcome remains one of the great uncertainties in Centennial's future, the article explains. A state court ruling and a decision from the Federal Aviation Administration on this issue are still pending. Another troubling mark in Centennial's future are annual bond yments that accelerate from $1.25 million this year to $1.8 million in 2001. Existing revenue won't pay that bill, but Crandall said projected increases in airport revenue should bring the airport "close to breaking even."

One of the keys to improving the airport's financial picture is the anticipated lease of land at the south end of the airport, the article reports. A proposed contract will be considered by the Airport Authority board in March to allow development to occur on 200 acres at a cost $400,000 a year. Other pending developments at Centennial include: 1) A study to determine how airplane noise is affecting neighbors and how it could be mitigated. The airport is awaiting federal money to fund the study. 2) A customs office at Centennial that will enable international flights to fly directly to Centennial instead of landing somewhere else first.

Source: Noise News