The Saratoga Sun -

Getting off the ground

Maddox family completes first year as Shively Airfield FBO, look for improvements, modernization


January 31, 2018

Joshua Wood

Jennifer Johnson examines a runway light at Shively Field.

The Maddox family, Robert, his eldest son, Aaron, and daughter-in-law, Becky, have just completed one year, or 8,760 hours, of ownership of fixed base operations (FBO) at Shively Airfield. Operating as Mountain Flight Service, the family firm began the process of acquiring the FBO from Kim Lorenzen in October 2016 and completed the transition in January 2017.

As far as Robert "Bob" Maddox is concerned, he is just barely getting off the ground. From modernizing the master plan for the airport to beautification and a new entryway, the sky's the limit for Maddox.

Bob Maddox is more than familiar with aviation. Having obtained his pilot license in 1978, he has logged over 1,000 hours of flight time and has had a 40 year presence at the Steamboat Springs Airport. He is also familiar with business.

Along with the FBO in Saratoga, the Maddox family also owns and operates the Snowy Range Ski Area in Centennial, Wyo., another FBO at the Walden-Jackson County Airport in Walden, Colo. and the Mariposa Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Beth Summerfield, longtime partner of Maddox's younger son, Hunter, currently manages the bed and breakfast. Aaron and Becky Maddox manage the Snowy Range Ski Area during the winter season.

The elder Maddox has a role in all of the businesses.

Attending the Jan. 22 Saratoga Airport Board Workshop conducted by the Saratoga Town Council, Maddox hopes to help the town modernize their master plan for the airport.

"It's always been designed and operated as if it were in the little leagues," said Maddox, "but it is really in the big leagues."

Between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2017, Saratoga Jet Center received 1,276 arrivals and 3,500 people. According to Maddox, 99 percent of those operations were jets and he wants to increase that number.

Arrivals to the jet center have ranged from the new Honda HA-420 HondaJet to an Airbus a320. Last year, at least 4 private Boeing 757s requested to land in Saratoga to visit Brush Creek Ranch. The FBO had to turn them away as they can only take one at a time.

With a length of 8,801 feet, the runway at Shively Airfield is the longest non-commercial runway in the state and fourth longest overall. While the runway is long enough and strong enough to accommodate these large jets, the ramps and taxiways are unable to do so.

When the a320 landed, the aircraft was forced to stay on the runway due to its size. The 757s that land require the use of quarter-inch thick steel plates the size of a large table placed under the wheels to protect the tarmac.

Maddox wants to improve the structure of the airport, with his goal of increasing the amount of aircraft they recieve.

"I really want to help the airport see its potential," said Maddox.

In the Valley a common misconception has persisted that Shively Airfield is a semi-private airport that caters to hobby aviationists and members of the exclusive clubs that surround Saratoga. One of Maddox's goals is to impress upon the residents that Saratoga Jet Center is, in fact, a general aviation airport. Maddox hopes to change any negative perceptions.

One of the first projects he has planned is to change the entryway and beautify it.

"It looks like San Quentin right now with the double row of fence topped with barbed wire and the gate," said Maddox.

He said as much to the town council when he met with them on Jan. 22. Maddox said he would like to see a new entryway that embraces the western aesthetic of the area. He also wants to add a log facade to the FBO office that will contribute to this appearance. Maddox also knows the town needs to see a positive economic impact from the airport.

"We had a guy fly over from Cheyenne the other day," said Maddox, "Him and his wife went down to the Wolf and had a burger, went and soaked in the Hobo Pool and then flew back over to Cheyenne. That's great, but we need 100 of those guys."

Maddox has suggested to Bruce White, founder and CEO of White Lodging which owns Brush Creek Ranch, that a trip to Saratoga be included in guest activities. According to Maddox, White has been receptive to the idea.

While about 10 percent of visitors to Brush Creek arrive via the Saratoga Jet Center, most aren't aware of the town surrounding the airport until they are waiting for their departing flight.

Maddox also has plans to see the old air traffic control tower turned into a coffee shop or a restaurant and bar that would serve arrivals to the airport as well as town residents.

All of this is part of Maddox's goal of developing a sense of pride in the airport.

"Once we develop an awareness in the community and a sense of pride of the facility in the community, it'll be easier to spend a little bit of money," said Maddox.

Joshua Wood

Jennifer Johnson speaks with members of Lawson Aero inside the FBO offices at Saratoga Jet Center.

Understanding that Saratoga cannot solely shoulder airport costs, Maddox is working with the town council and the airport board to help find state and federal funding to help improve the airport.

"I can be that person," said Maddox, "I can go to the state and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) with our grocery list and tell them what we need."

Better snow removal and deicing equipment for the airport is on that list as is a new Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS). The airport also needs the ability to hangar large planes. While the FBO is able to lease out use of the hangar owned by Brush Creek, it is not always available.

Maddox believes that by improving the facilities that even more aircraft will land in Saratoga, increasing the amount of business that the airport, and the town, sees.

"If all arrivals were getting onto a scheduled flight," said Maddox, "Saratoga Jet Center would be the third largest airport in Wyoming."


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