Aspen airport repairs not yet finished | AspenTimes.com

Aspen airport repairs not yet finished

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesA United flight taxis toward takeoff Thursday at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. Repairs to navigational equipment that have hampered some United flights will continue for another week.

ASPEN – The repair of a critical piece of air navigational equipment serving the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport will take another week, creating the potential for additional flight delays, cancellations and diversions.

The Federal Aviation Administration shut down a localizer directional aid, or LDA, located atop Aspen Mountain, on Oct. 8, and hoped to have it rebuilt and operational by Friday, Oct. 22. Late Thursday afternoon, that completion date was pushed back to Oct. 29.

The LDA provides guidance to pilots when they are using a conventional instrument approach into the airport.

“This facility has the FAA’s full attention,” said Bob Brown, an FAA NAVAID system engineer, in a press release issued Thursday. “Getting it back in service is a No. 1 priority.”

The FAA was running test flights Thursday to check the new LDA equipment and adjust it, said Jim Elwood, aviation director at the airport.

The loss of the equipment has affected commercial flights when a visual approach isn’t possible.

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Frontier, which has additional navigation equipment on board that allows its planes to operate without the mountaintop LDA, has not been impacted. It is currently offering one connection a day between Denver and Aspen.

United Express offers up to six connections daily between Denver and Aspen, operated by SkyWest Airlines. Some of those flights have been canceled or diverted, when cloud cover did not allow adequate visibility to land in Aspen. When jets don’t land, departures can be affected as well.

SkyWest has bused passengers to Aspen from both Denver and the Grand Junction airport during the LDA shutdown, said Marissa Snow, manager of corporate communication for SkyWest.

As of Thursday evening, 24 SkyWest flights had been canceled as a result of work on the localizer, according to Wes Horrocks, the airline’s coordinator of corporate communications.

“We are definitely allowing rebooking without penalty,” Snow said.

The cloud “ceiling” that prevents SkyWest flights from landing without the mountaintop LDA was lowered from 6,000 to 5,000 feet this week, according to Elwood.

But the clear skies that have allowed flights to land more often than not without use of instruments may be coming to an end. The forecast for Aspen through the weekend and into next week calls for cloudy skies and a chance of rain and snow.

Travelers who are anxious about the reliability of their flights during the LDA shutdown should contact their airline directly, Elwood advised.

“It is unfortunate that our customers have been inconvenienced, however we must support the FAA in getting this critical work done,” he said in the press release.

There are two localizer antennae serving the airport – the one on the mountain and one at the south end of the runway, which remains operational.

janet@aspentimes.com