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Telluride Airport Activates New Air Traffic Control System

Via Telluride Daily Planet

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Telluride Airport has received a new ground and satellite-based air traffic control system that helps eliminate delays, enhances the flow of air traffic and improves safety.

According to a press release, the Federal Aviation Administration Next Generation Air Transportation system expands radar coverage of the airspace at three airports: Telluride, Gunnison and Durango. The new system was funded by the Colorado Division of Aeronautics, the FAA and a $110,000 contribution by the Telluride Regional Airport Authority.

Telluride Airport Manager Rich Nuttall said the system, which became operational on July 31, works fine so far, and will really be put to the test come winter.

“We will know even more this winter when we get really busy,” Nuttall said. “That’s the important thing. When we have our busy time it will help the flow of traffic.”

Previously, Longmont-based air traffic controllers couldn’t see traffic at low altitudes because the mountains interfered with traditional radar. This meant planes had to wait for flights ahead of them to clear 12,000 feet before they could take off. The new system allows air traffic controllers in Longmont to track planes below 12,000 feet, all the way to the ground. The FAA maintains and operates the system.

“This is great news for aviation safety in Colorado,” said CDOT Executive Director Don Hunt in the release. “This completed system will help deliver more on-time flights, reduce fuel consumption and will help boost tourism and economic development. This system is consistent with the goals of Gov. Hickenlooper and CDOT to deliver the most efficient and safest transportation system for Colorado.”

Over the last year, a system of ground-based equipment for the Wide Area Multilateration technology, including antennas, was installed at the Telluride Airport. The technology works with a network of sensors around each of the airports that receive and send aircraft transponder signals, according to the press release. Computers analyze the signals and allow air traffic controllers to determine the location of the aircraft.

Telluride, Gunnison and Durango now join a system that includes Montrose, which got the technology in 2012 and Rifle/Garfield County, Craig, Steamboat Springs and Hayden, which received the system upgrade in 2010.

“CDOT’s Aeronautics Division has been involved with this system for the past eight years,” said Aeronautics Division Director David Gordon in the release. “This has been a great partnership with the FAA. The technology which was first used in western Colorado is now being installed across the United States to help our aviation system stay safe, on-time and dependable.”

The new system also allows pilots to fly search and rescue missions in weather conditions that would previously have kept them grounded and helps reduce weather-related diversions and delays.

“This is going to enhance traffic flow in Telluride and Montrose and the other airports they installed previously,” Nuttall said. “It’s just a good system all the way around for this part of the state.”

Telluride Daily Planet

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