For nearly 30 years, Front Range Airport has sprawled on prairie land near the Eastern Plains town of Watkins, managing to cling to life as development dreams have been dashed.
Now, those dreams are once again at the forefront as the 4,000-acre airport’s long-sought prosperity hinges on a mix of futuristic space travel, unmanned aircraft, new surrounding development and continued general-aviation services.
Up to now, Front Range has grown in spurts, in part due to infrastructure improvements fueled by on-airport and off-airport projects that have stalled.
That relatively new infrastructure — a direct route to Denver International Airport, 6 miles to the northwest via East 56th Avenue, a Federal Aviation Administration air-traffic-control tower and utility systems — is expected to serve as the foundation for Front Range to take off.
“The infrastructure is already in place — we couldn’t afford to build it today — and we’re taking that and propelling it forward,” said Dennis Heap, executive aviation director at Front Range.
Going forward has taken on new urgency.
“You need someone to pull the trigger,” Hinson said. “You also have to have visionary leadership, … and you’ve got to have the willingness and commitment to make it happen.”
Two significant possibilities are on the horizon: unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturing and testing, and a spaceport — now that technology is near that will allow horizontal takeoffs and landings of space vehicles.