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 airport.

  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 well advertised.

  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 have 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  developed it into a Restaurant.  They leased the Restaurant operations and it opened as “B J Strawberries at the Convair”. 

    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 Restaurant.

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.

 Tri 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 huge crowd.

, 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, but it wasn’t enough money to fully maintain the blacktop runways.  Tom Pierce, Junior, finally convinced the FAA that Tri County should become a reliever 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.  “The Rocky 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.  In 1991, 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 Airport”- FOEA).

      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 growing and developing, as seen in aerial photos.

Supporters of Erie/Tri-County Airport:

 HOA:  Erie Airpark Homeowner’s Association was formed in 1979 to enable a 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 homes.

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.

FOEA: 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

EAEDC: 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: 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 access fees.

MUSEUM: , , , 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 history.

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 Helicopter 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 pilots.   

Economic Impact of Erie/Tri County Airport for Erie and Community:

CDOT: 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.

 Homes and Business: 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. 

Join the History team