Airplane buzzes Sundeck | AspenTimes.com
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Airplane buzzes Sundeck

Joel Stonington

A white airplane buzzed the top of Aspen Mountain on Friday afternoon, scaring skiers as it passed less than 50 feet off the ground at hundreds of miles and hour.The plane flew close to the gondola tower and tipped a wing as it passed the Sundeck restaurant at the summit. “It popped up and over,” said witness Paul Coffey. “It’s not like you could see it coming in. Next thing you know it was just buzzing us. It seemed to come out of nowhere.”Skiers who were ending their day about 3 p.m. looked up as the white plane passed over in a matter of seconds. “I remembered back to Italy about six years ago when fighter jets clipped the gondola,” Coffey said. “Twelve people were killed. That incident flashed into my mind. Everyone’s jaws just dropped. No one believed it. It was one of those strange things you don’t expect – next thing you know there’s a plane going over the building.”Another witness said the plane came from the direction of the Walsh’s run, skimming tree lines.Coffey estimated the plane was roughly 50 feet from the Sundeck. “You could see the body of the plane and actually see the left-hand wing,” he said, “but the right-hand wing had dipped just below the roof, nearly hitting the Sundeck. It was ridiculous.”Coffey said the plane, a twin-prop, six- to eight-seater, was white and shining in the sunlight as it cruised by. “It was totally gorgeous as it came around,” Coffey said, “just too close.” Aspen Skiing Co. mountain manager Steve Sewell said the plane then buzzed the top of Highlands before continuing on up the Maroon Creek Valley. “It sounded like the guy was just flying, moving really fast,” Sewell said. “It was on top of them before anyone knew it. It would be great if we caught the guy, some yahoo.”Sewell said the mandatory clearance at the top of the mountain is 500 feet, though 1,000 feet is expected out of courtesy.”This guy was too damn close,” he said.There were no immediate reports of the plane’s identification numbers, and no photographs were believed to have been taken. The sheriff’s office doesn’t have much to work with, authorities said. “Without a tail number or flight number, we can’t do much,” said Pitkin County deputy Jesse Steindler. “I thought at first it might be similar to a plane reported buzzing the Basalt High School. But the description of that plane being similar to the one today was an erroneous description. We don’t seem to have any witnesses who said what the tail number is. We notified Sardy Field, but they told us no plane of that description had taken off.” Coffey said that for a few seconds everyone’s jaw dropped and then people just started skiing again. “It all happened so fast,” he said. “It’s the last thing you expect when you’re standing at the top of the gondola. No one saw it coming in and the next thing you know it was buzzing both places.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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