Boulder Now Permits Ultralight Aircraft at Boulder Municipal Airport

Boulder City Council on Tuesday passed an ordinance repealing part of the revised Boulder Code that bans small aircraft such as motorized paragliders at Boulder Municipal Airport.

“The current ordinance restricts ultralight vehicles, in particular, as well as balloons, kites and unmanned rockets, as they were not considered airplanes in 1982 (when the ordinance was passed)” Boulder Director of Transportation Erika Vandenbrande said later, adding, “Boulder has taken the plunge a bit. “

In the years that followed, the Federal Aviation Administration received a complaint from someone seeking to use an ultralight aircraft at the airport.

“The FAA told us we couldn’t restrict these planes at the airport because they weren’t considered dangerous by the FAA,” Vandenbrande said Tuesday.

Since this happened, the airport has not enforced the code banning such aircraft, but the approval of the ordinance repealing the code makes it official. The city council unanimously supported the ordinance after a brief public hearing in which one person spoke in favor of it.

“This is basically an action we need to take in order to stay in compliance with FAA guidelines,” said board member Aaron Brockett. “It seems to be what we need to do. “

Although one person died in a paramotor crash just west of Erie Municipal Airport in early April, the cause of that crash is still under investigation.

Although this specific incident was not addressed on Tuesday, Vandenbrande noted that the city could request a safety study from the FAA if it feels restrictions on a particular type of aircraft are necessary.

Noise from the activities of Boulder Municipal Airport and other regional airports is often a concern for those who live nearby. Council member Mark Wallach asked if noise would be a reason to request a study from the FAA, but Vandenbrande confirmed that a study must be linked to safety.

Although Mayor Sam Weaver agreed noise is a concern that should be taken into consideration, he said this particular action was unrelated.

“I don’t think allowing balloons and ultralights is going to make a big difference to the sound profile of our airport,” Weaver said.

Additionally, city council said the risk of losing FAA grant funding because the airport was not following federal guidelines was embarrassing.

“When necessary, this airport is a critical facility for us,” Weaver said, adding that it served as an evacuation space during floods and fires.

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