Tri County/Erie Airport History
submitted by volunteer, Beverly Cameron
In 1976 or 1977, land for the Tri County Airport
was purchased and developed by Tom Pierce and his Business Partners.
They envisioned a private airport, and wanted to sub-divide and
sell a few lots to help pay for the project.
They annexed the property into the Town of Erie, and began
selling properties in 1977.
After the project began, the developers saw a need
to open the airport to the public to gain support for the maintenance
shop, fuel sales, and flight school that soon became a major part of the
The Fixed Base Operations building with offices,
a Maintenance shop, a Flight School, and a fuel island were in place by
1978. A Grand Opening was
Building of homes began in 1977-78.
Several lots had sold, and people began
planning their airpark homes.
But in the late 70’s, interest rates hit a high of
16-18% and building came to a halt.
Before the rates became reasonable
again, Erie had to put a moratorium on water taps, since they didn’t
enough water to service this new community.
In 1980, before the water moratorium, Tom Pierce and a business
partner bought A Convair 990, moved it to Tri County Airport and perched
it on tall
pillars. They built a
building underneath the re-assembled Convair and
it into a Restaurant. They
leased the Restaurant operations and it opened as “B J Strawberries at
At least 14 vehicles were required to move the
Convair in pieces from Stapleton Airport to Tri County Airport.
It took all day for the transport.
The fuselage on the roadway.
On final approach to its new home.
Workers, including the owners.
Attaching the outboard section of the wing.
Finally looks like an airplane again.
The Post card advertising the Convair
In March 1981, Tom Pierce and his mechanic friend
perished in a plane crash just 2 months after the Convair Grand Opening.
Ownership and Management
of the airport passed to his wife, Carolee, then his son Tom, Jr.
County Airport sponsored an Air Show in 1981, with the approval of the
FAA. Bob Hoover performed
with his Commander (Shrike) and his P-51
(Mustang). Numerous other acts, displays and exhibits were enjoyed by a
After interest rates returned to a reasonable percentage, and
Erie further developed the water treatment plant, building began again.
By 1987 the subdivision began taking shape.
Air Park residents had paid into a maintenance fund since 1979,
wasn’t enough money to fully maintain the blacktop runways.
Junior, finally convinced the FAA that Tri County should become a
airport for Jefferson County Airport.
The FAA finally concurred and designated Tri County as a reliever
airport. This gave Tri
County the ability to obtain Grant Money from the Federal Aviation Grant
funds, and from CDOT. The
first priority was to re-surface runway15/33.
In 1988, the airport had a famous “Aerocar” at
the airport. Ed Sweeney
bought the Aerocar and hangared it at Tri County for a while.
He flew it out of Tri County, and to Jefferson County Airport.
Mountain News” featured it but sadly we don’t know where it is now.
The airport owner wasn’t able to generate enough money to pay the
matching funds for the grants.
Also, as a privately owned airport, property taxes were assessed
and represented a huge bill every year.
the airport fell into bankruptcy.
The Tri-County Pilot’s Association was formed in 1993.
(It is still active, With the name change to “Friends of Erie
In 1994, Erie was able to buy the airport from the bankruptcy
court. They contracted for
an FBO manager who paid rent to Erie for the FBO building.
In 4 years Erie had the bankruptcy court paid in full with
proceeds from the rent.
Because of their ownership, Erie renamed the airport.
It became the
Erie Municipal/Tri County Airport.
What goes up must come down.
After several years, the Convair was empty and deteriorating.
In 1996, cranes lifted it off its pillars, and an iron dinosaur
devoured it so it could be hauled away for scrap.
The building was later remodeled into an office building, still
in use today.
2006 - Erie/Tri County Airport, and the Erie Air Park are still
developing, as seen in aerial photos.
Supporters of Erie/Tri-County Airport:
Erie Airpark Homeowner’s Association was formed in 1979 to enable
dialogue to develop between the residents, the airport owner and the
Town of Erie. Membership in
the HOA was optional, dues were $20.00 per year per family, and meetings
were held once a month.
Activities included an annual Christmas Brunch at a restaurant in a
nearby town, meetings and eventually Pot Luck Dinners at resident’s
The women formed a “women’s group” to meet once a
month, and became a
sponsor for the Longmont Coalition of Battered Women.
The HOA still supports the women’s shelter with Christmas Gifts,
Easter Baskets, School supplies, and items for children to give their
Mothers for Mother’s Day.
The Pilot’s association (Friends of Erie Airport), formed in order to
support and represent the airport while working with the FAA, the Town
of Erie and the surrounding neighbors. Google
their website at Friends of Erie Airport
An Erie Airport Economical Development Committee was formed in 2008 to
Encourage businesses to develop near or on the airport property that
will become an asset to the airport and the Town of Erie.
Businesses on or near the airport, with access to the airport number
approximately 30-35 with 150-160 employees in 2010.
These businesses help support the airport and add to the economy of the
Town of Erie with jobs, payrolls, sales and property taxes, and airport
The newest addition to Erie Airport’s Supporters is the “Spirit
of Flight Museum”.
The Museum is open to the public for a $5.00
admission fee, plus they have a membership program, and
encourage everyone to join, for $20.00 per
year. This helps support
their programs, exhibits and Open House Events.
The Spirit of Flight Center offers a truly unique environment that
combines vintage and corporate aviation while promoting the love of
flight. Hundreds of rare aviation items and artifacts are on display
in the Spirit of Flight Hall of Honor representing the past, present and
future of flight. The Spirit of Flight mission is to save and
display aircraft and flight memorabilia to honor all veterans, and to
educate the general public on the significance of aviation and aviation
The Spirit of Flight Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, is
available for special event rental providing a most memorable setting.
Every May, Erie/Tri County Airport, with the help of the FOEA and HOA
participates in the Town of Erie “Erie Air Fair Days”.
The balloon launch was
from Erie Airport until the Golf Course opened, with better space to
stage the launch. Erie
Airport FOEA and HOA provides a pancake breakfast and lunches,
static airplane displays and participates in the Erie down town fair
with a booth and displays.
In conjunction with EAA, Erie pilots give “Young
Eagle Rides” at the Air Fair, plus every few weeks all year long.
The airport businesses sponsor Safety Seminars with
AOPA and the FAA, as well as Open House days for nearby residents of
Erie and surrounding communities.
The Spirit of Flight Museum sponsors an Open House
annually with other events throughout the year.
In August 2010, the first Annual Erie Airport Air Fair with a
Pancake Breakfast, and grilled lunches.
Airplanes and War birds were on display with rides available,
Young Eagle Rides, and rides to the Spirit of Flight Museum for tours.
This event is in addition to the annual May Erie Air Fair Days.
The Northern Colorado Hospital in Greeley, provides a Med Evac
located along Main Street, at Erie/Tri County Airport. They provide a
display at the Air Fair events, when possible.
The FBO (Fixed Base Operator), Vector Air, sponsors
Pilot Safety Seminars
throughout the year with speakers who provide safety programs for area
Economic Impact of Erie/Tri County Airport for
Erie and Community:
The Colorado Department of Transportation,
Division of Aeronautics publishes their findings of airport
specific economic impact for their nearby communities.
In 1998, CDOT’s report indicated Erie had a positive economic
impact of $3,395,200, which indicated total earnings of $936,000. and a
total of 42 jobs.
By 2008, the CDOT reported Erie Airport’s
total impact of $12,224,700., a total earnings of $4,345.300.,
and a total of 160 jobs.
Erie Air Park has 140 Plus homes and some vacant lots.
Property taxes and fees
provide support for the Town of Erie, Boulder County and St. Vrain
Valley School Districts, the Library District, Water and Sewer
Districts, bond repayments for the Erie Community Center, as well as
aviation fuel taxes and airport access fees to help support the airport
enterprise fund for Erie/Tri County Airport.
The airport provides 160 plus jobs at or near the
airport, providing wages, taxes, purchasing of goods and amenities, and
worldwide acclaim for goods and services provided by the businesses at
and near the airport.