Bob Adams field in Steamboat Springs, Colorado,the hub of the Steamboat Springs aviation community, sits on top of the rolling hills off of Elk River Road, in Routt County Colorado at an elevation of 6,882 feet. Owned by the City of Steamboat Springs, the Steamboat Springs Airport is managed by Stacie Fain and operated by a veteran crew who has worked at the airport for many years.
“There is a dedicated crew that works here – the A team. I may be the manager, but I don’t have to manage people here. I am just an advocate and manager for them. We are a team,” said Fain. With a 100-airplane capacity, the airport is a community asset that contributes $8.8 million to Steamboat’s economy annually (according to a 2011 CDOT study) and brings over 8,000 visitors to town. Fain notes the airport is a tremendous asset for Steamboat and Routt County, but feels that the general community is unaware of the airport’s importance.
Fain’s goal is to advocate for the airport and educate the general public about the benefits and value of the airport. “The fact is that there is so much money being brought into the city from this little airport and yet no one really understands general aviation: General aviation encompasses everything that is not a scheduled air carrier: for hire, day trips, EMS folks that come in and out; a classic helicopter operates out of the airport exclusively and private folks. There is a misconception that anyone flying in and out of here is rich. Well, no they are just passionate about aviation,” Fain stated.
In addition to the economic benefits, Fain and the employees see the airport as much more than a public hanger for private planes. Fain was drawn to the airport position by her sense of community and wants Steamboat to get to know the essence of the airport: the people who operate it and the people who fly in and out of there, all of whom make the airport come alive. With 50 total hangers, 40 privately owned and ten owned by the city, the airport community shares a unique sense of family. Since she took the helm in October, she has witnessed that closeness first-hand. According to Fain, “The folks that support FBO (fixed-base operation) and fueling know everyone’s names and tail numbers and give them the best service possible.” Tom Conte, a private pilot and flight instructor at the airport, echoes that sentiment. “With small town airports, there is a sense of camaraderie. There is a tremendous amount of information and knowledge that is exchanged. Everyone likes their hometown airports: pilots, passengers, and people who love aviation,” Conte said.
According to Fain, the airport community members hail from diverse backgrounds, each having a unique story. An artist from out of state flies in about 50 times a year. There is the almond farmer, the pistachio and cotton farmer, and local physicians, all who own and operate out of the airport. In addition, the airport hosts an aerobatic airplane crew, a group of retired Air Force pilots who stay a month and perform their tricks in the Steamboat skies. The airport is also home to the Steamboat Flying Club, an active group that owns several airplanes and offers flight instruction to the public. EMS maintains a helicopter at the airport for medevac activities. Zephyr Helicopters also operates out the airport and performs contract work for such things as power line inspections as well as offering private tours. Mountain Aircraft Maintenance is a privately owned aviation maintenance business operating out of the airport.
In addition to those who call the airport home, the most important airport resident is Rex, the Golden Retriever, Fain’s co-pilot of six years. “Rex loves his job at the airport. He loves the kids. He is the Wal-Mart greeter. He is a comedian and prankster,” said Fain. Rex has flown many places with Stacie since he was four months old. Donning his Mutt Muffs, Rex is eager to take flight and see where the next adventure may be. Fain noted as soon as they land and the engine is shut off Rex is ready to explore.
Fain wants to showcase the airport, educate the community about the airport’s economic benefits as well as introduce the airport’s heart and soul: the employees and the aviation community. “People who fly in are vested in this community. We see the same people year after year. That is a testament to the good job our folks have done here to service the people that come in,” said Fain.