Aircraft owner: New NoCo hangar study ‘everything I expected’ 

LOVELAND – A detailed engineering report on two condemned hangar buildings at Northern Colorado Regional Airport, released Tuesday, seemed to confirm what many owners of aircraft housed there had suspected: With some repairs and maintenance, the 46-year-old “C” hangars can be used at least for a few more years.

The 49-page report by Centennial-based Knott Laboratory concluded that the general health of the structures is satisfactory with no immediate life-safety issues identified if specific maintenance of the structures begins immediately.

It found load-bearing columns inside the hangars to be “generally intact” but noticed “isolated instances of buckled or missing horizontal braces” and “isolated cases of detached or missing bracing elements,” and that vertical bracing systems were “generally observed to be damaged and in need of engineered repair.” But otherwise, it simply called for “tightening of existing bolts and replacement of missing ones” as well as more careful periodic monitoring.

“I thought it was everything I expected,” said Richard “Rick” Turley, a hangar tenant in one of the C buildings who has represented the nearly four dozen owners of private aircraft who had faced eviction after the airport’s governing commission reviewed an initial report from Fort Collins-based Ditesco Project and Construction Services, discussed it in executive session March 2 with risk managers, legal counsel and insurance providers for the cities of Loveland and Fort Collins, which jointly own the airport, and emerged to declare that the A, B and two C hangar buildings needed to be retired because of safety and liability concerns.

At that time, tenants were given until April 10 to vacate the A and B hangars and July 10 to leave the C hangars.

The tenants responded at a March 9 town hall and the commission’s regular March 16 meeting that Ditesco had made an assumption based on what it saw in the older A and B hangars that all four needed to be demolished. Led by a presentation by Turley, the aircraft owners persuaded the commission to delay the evictions by a month and hire a structural engineering firm to do a more-detailed analysis of the two 20-space C hangar buildings.

The Ditesco report’s “damning information that looked most onerous was all identified in A and B,” Turley said. “Issues in C seemed to be much less concerning, but they lumped all of the hangars together instead of talking about them as individual buildings.”

The Knott Laboratory report “was written from an engineering perspective. No commentary, just the facts,” Turley said after reading the new report. “I thought it was very consistent with what we had seen with other engineers who had walked through.”

Added Martin Lind, who owns the Discovery Air service and hangar at the airport and worked with the city of Loveland to secure funds for a U.S. Customs facility there, “It’s crystal clear that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those hangars that can’t be fixed with a tiny bit of maintenance. I’m shocked that this wasn’t the report they asked for initially.

“What’s the motivation? Why did they go into a secret meeting with ill-prepared documents? What was it that made them come out with an immediate termination and eviction notice? And why all the secrecy? It’s crystal clear that the airport has things going on out there they don’t want the public to know about,” Lind said.

“I really don’t have a grievance. I don’t have an airplane in those hangars,” he said, “But I see loyal customers to the airport for decades being dismissed and treated as though they’re irrelevant. That’s the bigger issue for me. This is a public facility and it should be dealt with in the public light of transparency. If it was a safety issue, those pilots should have known about it, and it’s pretty obvious now it wasn’t a safety issue.”

The airport’s hangar area has been identified as a location for commercial redevelopment in the 2007 and 2020 airport master plans.

Many tenants continue to allege that the airport wants to squeeze out general aviation in favor of larger and more-lucrative corporate jets. A news release issued Friday by the city of Loveland disputed that contention.

“The Airport Master Plan identifies this area for larger hangars,” said airport director Jason Licon in the release. “There has been a significant misconception that this space would be dedicated to corporate jets, which is one of multiple possible uses for this area. It is more likely that this would serve the needs of the airport’s small businesses who provide services such as aircraft maintenance, avionics, or for flight schools. These locally owned small businesses are in significant need of more space and this location would be ideal for these types of uses. Until this time comes, it is our goal to find a path that allows the extended use of the hangars, and to allow for the creation of a new location that would better serve these demands into the future.”

The release said the airport “intends to develop and implement an infrastructure plan to create shovel-ready property in the northeast area of the airport to support the private-sector development of new general-aviation hangars. A 23-unit hangar project is being constructed at the airport, with completion anticipated in late 2023 or early 2024. Other projects are planned as well. This will help to alleviate the shortage of hangar space.”

At the commission’s regular meeting Thursday, it heard Scott Hargrove, engineering manager at Knott Laboratory, summarize his report’s findings, then voted to delay the decommissioning of C hangar buildings, extending tenant leases to Oct. 10.

It also voted to direct the airport staff to analyze the cost to make the repairs the Knott study recommended and review code requirements, with findings due by the commission’s July 20 meeting. It also directed the staff to prioritize transitions of A and B tenants into C hanger buildings and commission a similar facility condition analysis on both A and B buildings – possibly conducted by Hargrove’s Knott Laboratory team.

That motion for a new look at A and B passed over opposition by commission chairman Don Overcash and member Steve Adams.

“Governments are good at spending money to validate things at times,” Overcash told BizWest on Tuesday, “I firmly believe the decisions regarding A and B are unlikely to change.”

Overcash stood by the decision on A and B hangars that was reached after the panel’s executive session. “We were unanimous to take the action we took,” he said, “but since that action, our intent was to help solve a larger problem while still respecting some very critical information we were provided” – information that remains unknown to the pilots and public.

“Hence the welcoming suggestions from Rick Turley,” Overcash said. “We knew that was part of resolving an ongoing issue, even though there was a bit of pain in the original decision. We’re eager to continue to work on alleviating a lot of pain it caused. Sometimes you get a diagnosis you don’t like, but the outcome is better health going forward. The situation with A and B is going to produce a much better solution for C.”

The hangars are an example of aging public infrastructure across the country, said Overcash, who also serves as Loveland’s mayor pro tem. “Capital dedication for replacement has simply not occurred due to, most of the time, a lack of funding. It becomes an issue of resources, time and money. In particular in this case, it’s money.”

Some commissioners at Thursday’s meeting wanted the text of the Knott Laboratory report released immediately, but Overcash requested that airport staff review it first. According to Nicole Yost, the city of Loveland’s director of communication and engagement, staff comments were submitted to Knott by the end of business on Monday and the final report was provided to the public late Tuesday morning. That report included no redactions, and Yost told BizWest in an email Wednesday that airport staff made only “two small accuracy changes to the content – one is changing some dimensions to be more legible (they were too small to read prior) and the second is correcting the date of airport ownership of the hangars.”

Source: BizWest

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