Harrison "Mac" McCune, former La Junta City engineer of 29 years, recently presented business ideas for the Las Animas - Bent County Airport to Las Animas City Council. McCune believes his ideas, if implemented, could inject outside money into the city's economy, provide job opportunities for residents and help the Las Animas housing market.
McCune has three major ideas for the local airport: flight simulators for pilot training; Part 135 certified operations, meaning a commercial airplane flown by someone certified under Federal Aviation Regulations; and custom-built airplanes for private use.
McCune has extensive aviation knowledge. He's testified before the U.S. Congress six times in regarding aviation topics. In 1966, he developed the International Jet Interchange, which was later partially implemented into the Airport Airways Act of 1970.
"President Nixon knew of my efforts and what I had done and invited me to the White House to witness his signing (of the Act)," said McCune.
"They're large things," McCune said of flight simulators at the Jan. 8 City Council meeting. "It's just like sitting in a cockpit. You can go from zero [air] time to an airline pilot through these simulators. You pass the test by flying, actually."
McCune described a Part 135 operation as a "day-one moneymaker" and more of an immediate benefit to the community than flight simulators.
Part 135 is a certification process for operators of business aircraft that wish to conduct operations for compensation or hire.
Part 135 certification would grant the same airway rights to commercial aircraft, as, for example, United Airlines, according to McCune.
McCune suggested that, with the proper advertising, Las Animas could establish a direct income source through certified charter flights. He added that the city could even lease an airplane to avoid costs associated with purchasing one.
"In fact, you could make a deal with the Otero County Commissioners and the City of La Junta," said McCune. "If they want to go to Denver to see somebody, meet somebody, or something like that ... it's a three hour drive and you could have them there in an hour in a half."
McCune started and operated a charter airline in La Junta in the 1970s, according to La Junta City Manager Rick Klein and Assistant City Manager Bill Jackson.
Up to as late as the '90s, USPS operated commercial delivery flights out of La Junta airport.
McCune and Las Animas Mayor Jim Collins agreed that the Las Animas airport could facilitate similar services, although McCune noted that the runway would need to be inspected and possibly updated to support the weight of a commercial aircraft.
But even if the runway can't support a commercial jetliner, lighter aircraft could possibly operate on the asphalt in place, he said.
McCune's also suggested that the City of Las Animas look into custom-built homemade aircraft.
He provided examples and guidelines taken from Everyone's Aviation Association, an organization of pilots and enthusiasts who build their own planes. The EAA has over 200,000 members and nearly 1,000 chapters worldwide, according to its website.
"All disciplines of aviation have been my interest, in fact passion, for many years," McCune said.