Building Boom at Colorado Springs Airport

That total doesn’t include an $88 million hangar complex Sierra Completions, a Sierra Nevada subsidiary, plans to start next year at the airport that will eventually employ more than 2,100 people to turn wide-­body aircraft interiors into flying offices with advanced communications and electronics gear for high-­end customers. Dan Gallagher, the airport’s director, said Sierra is completing a feasibility study on the site and soon will begin design work on the hangar complex.

The construction boom is a product of tax breaks adopted in 2014 by the city, El Paso County, the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and the state to encourage economic development in an 1,825-­‐‑acre commercial aviation zone at and near the airport. The city and county agreed to either exempt from or give credits for sales and use tax on equipment, supplies and parts used in maintaining, retrofitting and upgrading aircraft. The authority excluded airport land from its boundaries so businesses at the airport don’t have to pay the
authority’s 1 percent sales tax.

“The Colorado Springs Airport has a number of distinct advantages over other airports looking to expand their general and commercial aviation sector. The creation of the commercial aviation zone helped put the airport on par with other airports as it relates to the local tax structure, making us extremely competitive,” Gallagher said.

The hangar construction and leases are expected to more than double the income the airport receives from sources other than airlines to $1.5 million this year and $1.72 million next year, Gallagher told members of the city’s Airport Advisory Commission late last month. That total doesn’t include $170,000 Cutter Aviation will pay the city annually for the hangar and the adjacent site it is leasing where the executive terminal will be built. The additional revenue has allowed the airport to cut the fees airlines pay by nearly half to $5.15 per departing
passenger this year.

1. Hangar condominium complex
The COS Owners Association is building a 21,000-­square-foot addition to its 114,000-­square-­foot hangar condominium complex that will accommodate up to 14 general-­aviation (nonairline) aircraft or aviation-­related businesses, its second expansion in five years.
Hoag Construction started on the $2.5 million project in September and plans to open the new hangars this year. Space in the complex sells for $250,000 to $1.5 million. Trine Aerospace & Defense LLC, an aircraft engineering and modification contractor that moved in 2013 to Colorado Springs from Chatsworth, Calif., is the largest tenant.

2. Cutter Aviation expansion
Phoenix-­based aviation service provider Cutter Aviation acquired a 23,100-­squarefoot hangar first built for Western Pacific Airlines and the 8-­acre site of the airport’s former passenger terminal, vacated in 1994 and demolished in 2002. Cutter plans to build a $5 million executive terminal. Cutter has provided maintenance and sold fuel to private aircraft owners at the airport since 2006. Steve Prieser, Cutter’s vice president and CFO, said its Colorado Springs operation doesn’t include any hangar space, so it acquired the former WestPac hangar to provide overnight storage space for larger corporate aircraft during inclement weather and adjacent ramp space to park other corporate aircraft. Cutter plans to build additional
hangars adjacent to the executive terminal.

The former WestPac hangar is leased to James Slattery and houses part of his collection of vintage World War II aircraft that eventually will be displayed at the National Museum of World War II Aviation, which is at the northwest corner of the airport.

3. Sierra Nevada hangar completion
Sparks, Nev.-­based aerospace and defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. recently moved into a 30,500-­square-­foot hangar completed in January by Bryan Construction Inc.
The privately held company says that the $4.7 million hangar will be used by its Sierra Completions subsidiary to modify Boeing Business Jet and Airbus Corporate Jet aircraft to be an “office in the sky” for senior corporate executives and heads of state. Sierra Nevada also leases the adjacent former DHL Express terminal. “This is the first step in establishing a presence for Sierra Completions at the Colorado Springs Airport and provides uswith a facility to launch the business,” Ed Topps, vice president-­‐‑programs, said in the Nov. 16 release. The hangar includes backshops, offices, storage facilities and a state-­of-­the-­art fire suppression system and will employ 150 when in full oper ation. Construction begins next year on an $88 million hangar complex that will become its permanent home and employ 2,100 within five years.

4. Global SuperTanker Services
A new company, Global SuperTanker Services LLC, which leases what will be the nation’s largest firefighting aircraft, has leased a vacant 14,880-­square-­foot hangar for its headquarters and to store equipment for fighting wildfires from its Boeing 747-­400 jet.
CEO Jim Wheeler announced in August that the company would base the converted freighter jet, which can carry up to 19,600 gallons of retardant or water for 4,000 miles, at the Colorado Springs Airport. The plane is expected to arrive at the airport in May, once it has been approved for firefighting use by the FAA, he said. The company is negotiating with potential customers and hopes to sign its first contract this month for use during the upcoming U.S. wildfire season, he said. Global SuperTanker is owned by Alterna Capital Partners, a Wilton, Conn.-­based private equity investment
firm. Global SuperTanker employs eight people with plans to add five more this year. The company plans on acquiring additional large firefighting aircraft, starting next year, Wheeler said. The hangar was built decades ago by Colorado Interstate Gas Co., which became Kinder Morgan Inc. through a series of acquisitions.

5. Rampart Aviation changes hangars
JHW Investment built and leases a 19,750-­square-­foot hangar to Rampart Aviation LLC, owned by Woodland Park investor Tony Porterfield, for its corporate headquarters and heavy maintenance base for aircraft the company uses for oilfield surveying and military transport.
Rampart moved to the Colorado Springs Airport from North Carolina in 2014 to expand its flight services, aircraft maintenance and aviation training support operations, which mostly support military units involved in parachute drops. The $2.5 million hangar houses the company’s 25-­30 employees with 15 more expected to be
hired this year.



The Colorado Department of Transportation last month approved a $3.45 million low-interest, 10-year loan to the Colorado Springs Airport to pay for a series of repaving projects over the next two years. The loan carries a 2.5 percent interest rate and will be repaid from a $3-per-flight fee all airline passengers now pay. Money from the loan will be used to pay the airport’s 10 percent match of a federal grant that will be used for nearly $20 million in concrete replacement work on airport taxiways.

The airport previously borrowed $1.8 million under the transportation department’s State Infrastructure Bank lending program, which also is being repaid by the $3-per-flight fee, which is called a passenger facility charge.