Aspen airport plan sees some reductions

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Reductions in additional hangar space and in the size of a proposed underground parking garage at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport will be among the recommendations that emerge in an updated master plan for airport facilities, according to local aviation director Jim Elwood.

The airport on Tuesday arranged a media tour of existing facilities, similar to scheduled tours being offered to the public during the next two weeks, and Elwood distributed a double-sided, one-page handout, “Answers to Some of Your Questions About the Airport Master Plan,” to local newspaper and radio reporters. The handout appeared to respond to issues raised by Citizens for Responsible Airport Development, a group that is questioning potential future developments at the airport as outlined in the master plan.

Development of a second fixed-base operator to serve general, or private, aviation on the west side of the airport is among those issues. A 2004 master plan for the airport reserved an area of the west side, off Owl Creek Road, for future aeronautical uses, Elwood noted. But the amount of hangar space in the master plan’s “preferred alternative” has been reduced to 19,400 square feet, including a maintenance hangar and a storage hangar for private aircraft. Initially, the new master plan outlined about 180,000 square feet of hangar space, he said.

“There’s been a lot of chatter in the community about how much hangar space might be created, particularly on the west side,” Elwood said.

Currently, the airport has a maintenance hangar on the east side that measures 4,200 square feet, plus a storage hangar of 21,500 square feet. Both are managed by Atlantic Aviation, the sole fixed-base operator at the airport currently.

In addition, Elwood said, a proposed underground parking garage is being scaled back for a first phase of development. Instead of a garage containing 1,300 spaces (about 950 exist currently as surface parking), a first phase would include 750 garage spaces and retain surface parking for another 550 spaces. The total capacity of 1,300 spaces is to meet the projected demand by 2017. The garage would be built to allow future expansion, he said.

The handout also addresses what’s driving the new master plan effort on the heels of the 2004 master plan adoption and the rationale for a new 80,000-square-foot terminal, among other topics. The terminal proposal is a reservation of space for a building that will see “rigorous local review” before its final design and dimensions are determined, the handout states.

“It could be 60,000 square feet, it could be 81,000 square feet … nobody wants it to be larger than it needs to be,” Elwood said.

The master plan update, required periodically by the Federal Aviation Administration, was triggered by inquiries from entities interested in providing a second fixed-base operator at the airport, according to the handout. In a recent meeting, Elwood said he has fielded interest from 10 potential operators.

A new master plan was deemed the best way to address future demands, according to the handout.

The public tours, which begin Thursday, allow a behind-the-scenes look at areas of the airport terminal that Elwood described as inadequate for various reasons during Tuesday’s tour. Changes in elevation within the building, and a structure that is currently too low compared to the aircraft ramp outside are also challenges, he said.

The tour also includes a drive around the perimeter road at the airport to view other facilities and the proposed sites of potential future development.

Tours will take place from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on May 10, 15, 16, 17 and 24 and from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on May 16 and 23. For more information or to RSVP, contact Cynthia Bernal at or 970-429-2852.

Similar tours were offered a year ago, shortly after the planning process began. The new round of tours was announced last week, as community debate over the master plan began to heat up.

“The key here is that the facts come forward,” Elwood said. “It’s important to the (county) commissioners that people understand the airport and what’s being talked about.”

The planning effort has “created some important dialogue about what is the right feel for this airport,” he said.

County commissioners are scheduled to take up the master plan again on May 22, when John Bauer, manager of the Denver Airports District Office for the FAA, is expected to attend. More detailed cost estimates for components of the master plan are also due out later this month, Elwood said.