Aspen airport navigational aid back on line |

Aspen airport navigational aid back on line

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – A problem with equipment that guides planes making an instrument approach to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport was deemed operational Tuesday afternoon, but 32 commercial flights were affected over a five-day period while repairs continued.

SkyWest, which operates United Express service to Aspen, reported 32 flight cancellations between April 12 and Monday. The total amounts to 16 flights that weren’t able to make it into Aspen, which meant the jets weren’t available for their scheduled departures, a Skywest spokeswoman said. All flights on Sunday were canceled, she said.

Cristine Lindenfelser, who was scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles with her family last weekend, was among those affected by a last-minute United cancellation on Sunday and then another one on Monday. A little more notice from the airline would have made it easier for her family and other angry passengers gathered at the terminal to make alternate arrangements, she said.

“This is our vacation,” the part-time Snowmass Village resident said. “If we can’t get in and out, it’s going to make people not want to come.”

The navigational aid, known as a localizer, intermittently stopped working earlier this month, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman. The localizer is the FAA’s responsibility, and FAA technicians were dispatched to make repairs, which included replacing the antennae and associated cable, he said.

The repairs began April 9 and the aid was off-line continuously until the FAA completed a flight check of the system on Tuesday afternoon.

An airport spokesman was unaware if Frontier Airlines experienced cancellations related to the localizer problem, but Frontier has not been affected by past localizer issues. The airline ceased its service to Aspen when a final flight departed for Denver on Monday morning.

A few American Eagle flights were rerouted on April 7 and 8 as a result of the localizer problem, but that airline ended its winter-season service to Aspen that weekend. United Express, flown by SkyWest, is the only commercial service remaining at the local airport until American Eagle resumes service in mid-June.

The localizer that experienced trouble is located at the south end of the runway. It was relocated to a new site last year as part of a runway extension project that added 1,000 feet to the south end.

The localizer is used to guide aircraft when a visual approach is not possible, which means it impacts incoming flights when cloud cover or other conditions limit visibility.

Lindenfelser said she was told outbound flights may be canceled, as well, if a pilot isn’t able to turn around the plane in the event of an emergency and land it visually.

The guidance system’s self-diagnostic tests initially detected the problem, airport Aviation Director Jim Elwood explained previously. Safety was not compromised, he said.

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