Tucumcari’s airport caters to variety of traffic

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

Watching the hand signals from Ernie Baker, Colette and Dave Eneboe rounded the fuel island and got out of their small single engine prop plane. Baker, assistant manager at the Tucumcari Municipal Airport, welcomed the couple and then began fueling the plane.

“We’re just stopping for fuel. We’ve always received good service. We’re on our way to the air show in Oshkosh,” Eneboe said.

Meanwhile two other small twin-engine planes come and go.

Phil Bidegain, from the T-4 Ranch in Montoya, comes into aviation waiting room. He said he’s about 15 minutes early and that its better to be early. He’s waiting for his father, Phillip, to fly in from Scottsdale. A Lear Jet 31 lands softly, taxies up to the aviation building and the elder Bidegain receives a warm family welcome. The Bidegain family packs their car and heads home.

“It’s just a typical day at the Tucumcari Airport,” said aviation manager Steve Stephenson.

A small airport, with no tower, it’s home to about a dozen local planes, he said. Several regulars come from within the state on weekends to go to their weekend homes in Conchas or Ute Lake.

And, it’s also a popular in-transit refueling spot. This weekend there will be more aviators on their way to the big Oshkosh air show, said Stephenson, who been at the airport since 1995.

Planes, ranging in price between $30,000 and $20 million, use the airport regularly, he said. The only restriction is by weight because the runways are rated for only a certain number of pounds.

Sometimes their pilots and passengers are well known, said Stephenson and Baker, nothing that it’s not uncommon for Morgan Freeman to come through and even stay overnight.

And in the past several years, traffic at the airport has increased. Stephenson attributes much of it to the development activity at the Ute Lake Ranch.

The airport is staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Stephenson and Baker work the hours with the help of a part-timer, Drake Swenson