Grand County has long been the haunt of pioneers, and Emily Warner is no exception.
In 1973, Warner became the first woman to be hired as a commercial airline pilot in the United States. She would later go on to be the first female airline captain in the United States and lead the first all-female airline flight crew.
Warner had a home in Grand County for more than 25 years and has had an indelible impact on the local aviation community.
Now, she has been immortalized in the name of the local airport where she spent so much of her time.
The Grand County Board of Commissioners amended the name of Granby Airport to include the title Emily Warner Field at its Dec. 9 meeting.
“I’m just so honored and so excited about it because Granby has always been like home to me,” Warner said. “I did a lot of flying up there, and I did a lot of instructing up there. I taught a lot of people how to fly up there.”
Warner’s husband was involved in the development of Ouray Ranch, and the couple would keep their Cessna 182 at Granby Airport.
Frontier Airlines hired Warner as a pilot in 1973.
“My heart just jumped,” Warner said of the moment when she learned she had gotten the job. “He said, ‘Well, you’ve got the job, but we want you to know that we want this to be good for Frontier, good for you and good for other women in aviation,’ and I said, ‘That’s wonderful. I’m all for that.’”
It was a formative moment in aviation history, and its importance wasn’t lost on Warner’s friends in Granby.
“They were always encouraging me, and when I got hired by Frontier, they had a big ceremony for me for being hired by an airline,” Warner said.
After completing her trips in Denver, Warner would regularly cross the Divide in her single-engine plane to spend the weekend in Granby.
“I had just the right place to cut across the mountain,” Warner said, placing her trans-mountain route somewhere near Devil’s Thumb Pass.
In Granby, Warner would give free check rides and flight reviews to pilots.
Local pilot and friend Bill Hamilton said he has a number of entries in his logbook with Warner’s signature.
Hamilton helped campaign for the name change.
“She’s much treasured by local pilots,” Hamilton said of Warner, calling her one of the “living legends of aviation.”
County Commissioner Meritt Linke was also instrumental in bringing the name change before the board of commissioners.
“There’s no cost at all to the county to do it, and it’s a huge recognition for her and for the airport,” Linke said.
Greg Anderson, CEO of Wings Over the Rockies, is a personal friend of
Warner’s and wrote a recommendation to the commissioners to amend the name.
“She is an incredible human being and extraordinary role model for young people who look around and feel that they can reach for opportunities beyond their immediate surroundings,” Anderson said. “Be that in aviation or anywhere else.”
The Federal Aviation Administration will eventually update navigation charts to reflect the amended name of Granby Airport.
Warner said she hopes to come visit her namesake airport soon.
“I still have many friends up there