Dave Elliott recently retired from Frontier Airlines, ending 13 years as an airline pilot. During 40 years of flying, he also served in the Coast Guard, flew corporate planes and taught at the Air Force Academy.
So what’s he looking forward to in his retirement?
More flying, of course.
“I can’t get enough of it,” says Elliott, 63, who plans to do flight instruction and occasional contract corporate flying along with tooling around in the Piper Apache that’s parked in a hangar at his house.
Elliott lives at Meadow Lake Estates in Falcon, with a taxiway in his backyard to Meadow Lake Airport. His is one of 41 residential lots with airport access, though of the 30 that are occupied, only about half have airplanes. Elliott, president of the Meadow Lake Airport Association board of directors, has lived at Meadow Lake since 1999.
Development at the site of the former McCandlish ranch began 50 years ago by members of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 72; an initial dirt airstrip, carved from the prairie, opened Jan. 1, 1966. Meadow Lake Airport is unusual in that it is a public use airport, but privately owned. Operations and maintenance are conducted by volunteers and funded by dues paid by the property owners; federal and state grants fund capital improvements. It’s Colorado’s largest pilot-owned airport.
The airport was designated as a general aviation reliever airport in 1989; it helps ease congestion at Colorado Springs Airport by being a base for smaller planes, so that, as Elliott puts it, “the bug smashers” are out of the way of the military jets and cargo planes and commercial aircraft. Meadow Lake Airport is home to more than 450 aircraft; it also houses more than 100 small businesses.
Don’t look for a control tower; Meadow Lake is an “uncontrolled” airport, which means it’s up to pilots to keep an eye on the skies and coordinate through a “common traffic advisory frequency” on their radios.
A taxiway basically at your doorstep, a plethora of planes and the companionship of fellow aviators. It seems the perfect home for Elliott, who decided at age 9 that he was going to be a Coast Guard pilot after watching a half-hour TV show about the Coast Guard in Alaska. The show featured “a neat airplane” that could land on ground or water – the Grumman Albatross. Elliott did get to fly the now-retired plane during his 21 years in the Coast Guard.
He hasn’t flown his Piper Apache in years – he’s been too busy – but is looking forward to getting it up in the sky this summer. “It’s just a fun airplane,” he said.
So why is flying such a passion for him?
“Oh geez, wow. There’s a feeling, an emotion, the thrill, the freedom of movement,” he said.
While a cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and then based on a ship for a year and a half after, he learned about the forces of nature and using them to accomplish a goal – flying or sailing from Point A to Point B. He enjoys putting that learning to use, he said.
“I’m a project guy. I would go nuts if I had a 9 to 5 job. I like to get out and explore, and aviation is a good way to do that.”