La Junta is popular airport for military training.

“La Junta is a very popular airport,” said Pete Eunice, Safety Manager for L3 Doss Aviation, Inc. Eunice has been working for Doss Aviation since he mustered out of the U.S. Air Force in 2006, a 24-year veteran pilot. Doss Aviation has been in business since the 1970’s, starting with a refueling contract and going on to be first trainers for people destined to become pilots in the U.S. Air Force. “The Doss history of aviation excellence began in 1970 with Mr. Wally Doss. Doss was formed to deliver aviation flight training and aircraft maintenance to the U.S. Army and other Federal agencies,” says their website.

Pueblo was chosen as home base for this operation because it has 330 days of sunshine a year. “And La Junta probably has more,” added Keith Mordoff, representative of L-3 Technology, which has recently purchased Doss Aviation. Also with these men was Robert Franz, an emergency medical technician, who travels wherever the Doss planes are operating so they have a first responder on the scene quickly in case of an accident. “We hope never to have to use him,” said Eunice.

The trainers Doss pilots fly are manufactured in Canada by Diamond Aviation. They are very quiet, operating with only 125 horsepower engines. The gas tank is behind the cockpit, but has strong metallic barriers for the protection of the pilot and trainee. They have had only one fire in their years of operation with this airplane. In a typical turn at La Junta Airport, the trainee shoots five touch-and-go landings. A designated area around La Junta has nine training areas, one near Ordway and one near Sugar City, and four between La Junta and Pinon Canon.

The planes fly at an altitude of between 500 and 7,500 feet. The trainees get down to 500 feet when they are required by the trainer to find a place to land in open country. Several fields for this exercise are located east of Sugar City.

Hoss also uses the airport at Fowler. Fowler and La Junta are ideal because the weather is usually good and commercial air traffic is minimal. La Junta has approximately eight to ten Doss sorties a day. Eunice said that one day two weeks ago, Doss Aviation flew 181 sorties. A sortie is a short trip by a single airplane, in case you were wondering, as I was.

La Junta has another advantage in the length of the runway, which was used for bombers in World War II. That makes it usable by C-130’s from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Eunice made the trip to La Junta to let people know there is heavy traffic at the La Junta Airport these days. Other commercial and private planes use the field as they always have. Air Connect, a helicopter rescue service, also headquarters at La Junta Airport.