Airport director Judd Hill spoke at the grand reopening of Grand County’s Canyonlands Field Airport on Saturday, June 2. Speakers included Bill Groff, the Grand County Airport Board chair, and Rep. Christine Watkins. Breakfast was provided by Armstrong Consultants, the airport engineering firm that has been working on the runway expansion. [Photo courtesy of Robert Greenberg]

Business is taking off at the Canyonlands Field Airport.

The grand reopening of the Canyonlands Field Airport on Saturday, June 2, commemorated the airport’s May 1 reopening with new commercial jet passenger flights between Moab and Denver. Judd Hill, Canyonlands Field Airport director, told the Grand County Airport Board that May was the “busiest month in the history of the airport.”

The number of passengers enplaned during the month of May equated to 20 percent of the total enplanements in the entirety of 2017, Hill said during the May 4 airport board meeting. The Canyonlands Field Airport had about 2,000 enplanements in the month of May.

Hill’s director’s report to the board showed that there was a 20 percent increase in fuel sales at the airport. Fuel sales at the airport are handled by Redtail Air, said Redtail Air Manager John Ramsey.

The airport receives 10 percent of the revenue of all sales at the airport. As of June 4, the airport’s share of revenue from all businesses was $16,500, but Hill said that figure didn’t account for any revenue generated from general admission parking, skydiving and rental cars because those May reports had not yet been received by the airport. Hill said that those sales could add another $10,000 in revenue for the month.

Hill said the month of May was the “best month ever” for the airport.

Construction and project improvements are ongoing, but some projects have been completed, said Hill.

The airport board was updated on the status of the construction projects. Runway grooving was completed at 6 a.m. on June 4, with the ramp and taxiway scheduled to be painted on June 5.

The airport pumps, treats and distributes its sewer and water. Hill said the airport is now required to test the water 160 times per year. Four years ago, the requirement was four times per year.

“We have seen a significant increase in our requirements for (water),” Hill said.

Due to the increase in testing requirements, Hill said that he himself is no longer the person the airport needs to do the testing, and recommended hiring certified water-inspectors to do the job.

“We don’t really have another option than to have someone who is qualified to do so,” he said.

In addition to hiring water specialists, Hill suggested for the board to consider contracting for additional cleaning services.

Cleaning the airport has been done by the staff, including Hill himself, but now with the doubling of the size of the airport, staff members are spending hours throughout the day cleaning in the time between enplanements.

The Canyonlands Field Airport has eight staff members to cover the 1,000-acre airport, with 300 acres that need to be addressed every day. Three of the eight employees are full time, and none are designated janitorial employees.

“It’s just been an ongoing problem,” Hill said.

The report shows that cleaning estimates provided by multiple Moab-area cleaning companies average about $90,000 a year for terminal cleaning, and $14,000 a year for window cleaning every two weeks. An estimate of $6,000 a year for water testing was provided.

For the combined cleaning services and water inspectors, the projected cost would be approximately $65,000 for the remainder of 2018. Airport board members commented on the prices for contracting cleaning services and discussed hiring an employee.

Airport board chair Bill Groff said he supports hiring people to perform the water inspections and cleaning services at the airport.

“As you know, Judd has been overworked and underpaid for too long,” Groff said. “With the amount of traffic that we’re getting in the terminal … we need another person out there, we need a water specialist … we need other employees.”

The following day, on June 5, the Grand County Council approved $6,000 for water and sewer inspections, and also approved the hiring of an additional full time employee to help with the cleaning, instead of contracting the cleaning services.

Grand County Council Member Curtis Wells said the council is engaged in ongoing discussions with the airport board and director to address the increased demands.

“It’s an ongoing discussion because the airport has gone from being understaffed, to now they’re understaffed and the workload has increased because we’re growing the airport,” Wells said.

Wells said that Hill will continue to do the in-house cleaning of the airport with the help of the additional employee.

Hill explained that with the size of the airport, and the limited number of staff to attend to it, sometimes problems aren’t immediately noticed. He offered an example of a broken light on the taxiway.

“It took a full day before we realized the taxiway light had been broken because we didn’t ever have a chance to make it to the runway to inspect it, because we were dealing with everything else,” Hill said.

The light appeared to have been broken by a pilot who landed an incoming airplane partly off the runway in the middle of the night, Hill said.

Cameras are not installed on the airport’s runway, so the airport staff has not been able to identify the pilot who damaged the light and the pilot has not come forward.

Solutions for transporting airline passengers from the airport to Moab are ongoing as well, board members said.

Hill reported to the board that the current taxi and shuttle services arriving at the airport are operating in a manner of “organized chaos” because the drivers all show up at the same time when the flights land, but the airport does not yet have a standard directive for where the taxi and shuttle services go in the terminal and parking lot.

Director’s report highlights business at Canyonlands Field Airport; Need for additional staffing