Airport expansion a bad idea |

Airport expansion a bad idea

Just reporting back from the Woody Creek Caucus meeting. It was the airport/airline folks presenting their views, which they were careful to point out early on to us as simply “the facts.” We saw a presentation of charts and graphs, and nice slides of aircraft in flight.

The gist of all this information, which was promulgated most rapidly, if unintelligibly, was that we likely need a larger airport. In what manner is yet to be determined. Some possibilities include wider aprons, 1,000-foot longer runway and more facilities.

It seems that there is pressure from the “resort/business community” to bring in more planes, from more hubs. We need flights from more cities with new kinds of aircraft that may become available. (As if access were the real problem with Aspen.)

We learned that each time we accept an FAA grant, we are committed to expanding the access to our airport to all manner of additional general aviation traffic as well. Failure to allow this access can force the county (read, “taxpayers”) to repay all previous FAA grants. More private jets, more high-powered airplanes with pilots unfamiliar with the terrain. We’ve already experienced this recipe for disaster.

We’re already the most dangerous mountain airport in the U.S. if we concern ourselves with accidents at, or arriving and departing from, Sardy Field. Expanding the runway to the east is ridiculously unsafe.

Schools, Buttermilk, Snowbunny … and there’s nowhere to go. Everything’s fine except when something goes wrong. Emergency landings, engine failures, bad weather, scared pilots. It just makes no sense.

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Curiously enough, the charts seemed to indicate significant under-utilization of the existing flights, i.e., lots of unsold seats, plenty of airplanes. When questioned, our speakers confirmed that this was in fact the case. They’re working on it.

It was also acknowledged that Aspen is a very profitable line for the carriers. My guess is that market pressure will bring the right airplanes to Aspen, and the evidence indicates that it’s already being done.

The general consensus is that not too much can be done about the noise. The current administration would not consider backing a small town in dispute with the FAA. Voluntary “Fly Friendly” programs are notoriously unsuccessful, and we’re not allowed to discriminate against even the noisiest class one jets.

Perhaps the most encouraging suggestion all evening by our speakers was for the community to “stop whining,” as we already have a first class resort airport, close to town with a fine terminal, and improving service.

So keep it small folks. The airport is doing fine. Wait for the noisy old jets to die off. Suggest better coordination with Eagle County, and start working on what’s really wrong with Aspen.

Sandy Munro


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