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Falcon Aerolab expansion progressing at Meadow Lake Airport 

Meadow Lake Airport has been the primary hub for Falcon Aerolab, a STEM/aerospace/aviation enrichment program for middle and high school students, since Mark Hyatt founded the program in 2017. 

The STEM program consists of science, technology, engineering and math.

Falcon Aerolab currently rents a couple of hangars for its operations at Meadow Lake Airport, but dreams of a “long-term home” that will not only bring value to the program’s participants, but also to the airport and the Falcon community as a whole.   

Hyatt envisions that type of permanent place as a brand new 12,000-square-foot hangar complete with utilities and an artificial turf runway modeled after the turf at the U.S. Air Force Academy. 

“That would be big enough to have classrooms, storage, makerspace and hangar space for the airplanes and the ‘build a plane’ and mechanics courses,” Hyatt said. A makerspace is a place that provides hands-on, creative ways for students to design, experiment and invent using a variety of tools and technology.

Hyatt plans to call it the Aviation Center for Excellence (ACE). His ideas for the space have been in the works for a couple of years and are slowly coming to fruition. 

“The reason we haven’t done it quicker is just the regulations by the state and the Federal Aviation Administration. Dave Elliott (the airport manager) is working hard, but there are just so many different hoops we have to run through,” Hyatt said. 

There are three main phases: approval, funding and construction. Currently, the process is still in the approval phase. 

One recent win the team is celebrating in this phase is the west portion of Meadow Lake Airport becoming recognized by the state as an economic enterprise zone, which now allows donors to receive a 25% state tax rebate on every dollar they donate toward the ACE. 

Hyatt said that Meadow Lake Airport has preliminarily approved a ground lease for ACE and Elliott stated in an email that he is currently working on developing the ground lease. 

Once approval is granted from the FAA and the Environmental Protection Agency and the lease is complete, Hyatt will work on the next phase, which is fundraising. 

“I think the funds are easier than the government approval,” Hyatt said. “I’m getting a good vibe from people. A lot of people want this out at Meadow Lake. They want young people out there.” 

Which speaks volumes, as he estimates that the project will cost up to $4 million.  

There are already some individuals interested in donating to the project. Hyatt said, “There are some foundations in Colorado that are looking to invest in local communities and a couple of them have given me kind of a wink and a nod that they might cover a large amount of it.” 

In terms of a timeline, Hyatt expects to have full government approval by the end of this year, then have the project fully funded in 2025, and finally start construction after that. The goal is to celebrate the grand opening during the summer of 2026 if everything proceeds according to schedule. 

At that point, Falcon Aerolab will move out of the rented hangars and ACE will become the primary location for all of the program’s activities at Meadow Lake.

With the program’s success and rapid growth, the ACE move-in day can’t come soon enough.  

During the first fall semester of Falcon Aerolab in 2017, there were just 14 students enrolled. When The New Falcon Herald last spoke with Hyatt in July 2022, he expected between 600-700 students for the fall 2022 semester. Now just two years later, enrollment for the upcoming fall 2024 semester has almost doubled, totaling nearly 1,200 students across several towns in Colorado and other states, including Utah, Oregon, Idaho (and possibly Arizona in the future).

Out of all those students, about 400 of them are engaged at Meadow Lake in one way or another throughout the school year. 

“Meadow Lake is growing in influence with young people,” Hyatt said. “It’s been mostly people my age and Dave Elliot’s age. And nobody’s against us, but I think it’s all about kids. That’s who I’m advocating for.” 

To reach even more of the local youngsters, Hyatt hopes that ACE becomes a place for families in the community to gather.  

“I’d really love to showcase this to the community once we get it built,” Hyatt said. “Maybe have flybys; some of the guys and gals can bring their airplanes over and let the kids look at them, clean out the hangar and put a band in there, have barbecues. In other words, it becomes a place where families can go. I’d like to inspire people in aviation.”

Meadow Lake Airport has been a focal point of Falcon for almost six decades, and to help ensure that it remains as such for decades to come, Hyatt is passionate about creating room for younger generations to step in and learn to love and steward it well.  

He said, “These kids out here are going to be the future pilots, the future Dave Elliotts.”

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