Columns » Ranger Rich

Our airport's shopping spree



If you found out that the airport here in our village had just replaced the existing seats in its terminal with new seats, and that the cost of this project was $877,559, or $695.92 per chair, you'd have some obvious questions:

In these frightening economic times, was such an expenditure necessary?

Was this seat-replacement venture funded with taxpayer money?

We have an airport?

I have no answers for the first two questions, but I will address the third question and say, in all seriousness, that we do indeed have an airport where you can board a plane and make one big circle around the airfield with your pilot, Orville Wright.

(His brother, Wilbur, will stay on the ground and jump up and down on your suitcase until something breaks. Then he'll send the broken luggage to Oslo and force you to fill out a 14-page, lost-luggage claim form that he will also lose.)

But back to this seat thing.

The present Colorado Springs Airport opened some 14 years ago with a 280,000-square-foot terminal and 16 gates, although only 12 of the gates are in service and roughly nine of the gates see less action than Doug Bruce, who is rumored to have an inflatable woman that he likes to kick in the knee as he shouts, "I said no pictures!"

Anyway, in the terminal on that opening day of Oct. 22, 1994, were more than a thousand seats, most of them with a red, LSD-inspired pattern and shiny chrome-like metal that called out to passengers: "Come, my friend, and place your buttocks on me as you wait for your flight, which, by the way, has been delayed or canceled."

And so, day after day, we the villagers have plopped our increasingly large rumps into those seats while waiting for airplanes to whisk us away to magical and enchanting places such as Denver, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver.

For more than 14 years, we allowed our children to scream and climb on the chairs and leap off the backs of them and crash into startled strangers because we forgot the Ritalin. We encouraged our grandparents to run across the seats as fast as they could until they got to the end of the row and fell hard and lay on the carpet clutching their hips, although perhaps that was just me.

And the chairs, we are told, began to die.

"They had reached the end of their useful life," says the airport's aviation director, Mark Earle. "They were built to rock slightly, and in almost 15 years they wore out. There was metal fatigue. The welds were starting to pop, and several times the chairs had broken and passengers fell fell right over backwards."

None of the toppled passengers was injured, Earle says. The airport director will not, however, say whether the passengers who broke the chairs were "enormous" or "the size of Cape buffalo" or "had to be rubbed with butter so they could squeeze through the metal detectors." But I am guessing they were.

And so, in late 2008, the seat-replacement project began. The job is being wrapped up this week with installation of the last of 1,261 new seats, which we will discuss in great detail in a moment, right after telling you that no tax dollars were spent on the new chairs.

"No tax dollars were spent on the new chairs," says Earle.

The money came from the $3-per-ticket surcharge paid by all travelers using our airport. Passengers, in other words, paid for the new chairs. They just didn't know it.

And by the way, figures show that some 2 million of us shuffle through the airport each year, although that figure is misleading. A million passengers depart from our airport annually and, shockingly, about the same number arrive. In highly complicated aviation terms, this means that we come home. Or, the strangers arrive, then leave.

Here now, some details about the new chairs in our village airport.

They are in four- and five-seat units, many of them with attached tables that can hold very small items such as one stick of gum, your boarding pass or the new Gazette.

Also, nine of the chairs have extra room in the seat-bottom area so that our City Council can sit on their hands during this and all future financial collapses.

Oh, and the seats which are the popular Flyaway model and are made specifically for airports have a fabric covering known as "Faux Leather Masquerade."

That "masquerade" part will become important when you sit down and the clown's nose makes a loud squeak.

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