Consultants air recommendations for halting gridlock at the airport
Air traffic pileups, like the one experienced at the Aspen airport on New Year’s weekend, may soon be a thing of the past.
A pair of consultants has prepared a set of recommendations aimed at preventing flight delays similar to those that occurred at Sardy Field on Jan. 2 and 3.
InterFlight Services of Bellevue, Wash, was hired in January to identify the source of congestion problems, analyze those problems and make recommendations on how to fix them. Fred Isaac and Temple Johnson of InterFlight presented the results of their work to the county commissioners Tuesday.
The root of the problem, Isaac said, is the extraordinary demand at certain times of the year at an airport as limited in size as Aspen’s.
“That’s putting 10 pounds of tomatoes in an 8-pound bag,” Isaac said. Because the airport cannot be significantly expanded, the solution must be technical in nature, he said.
The consultants identified several problem areas at the airport and recommended measures they hope will reduce the congestion and delays. Commercial flights were delayed for hours over the recent holidays because of a huge backlog of planes, many private, waiting to take off.
Proposed solutions include transferring the responsibility for setting the rate of arrivals from the Federal Aviation Agency’s Longmont center to the Aspen control tower.
Presently, officials in Longmont decide when planes will land in Aspen, Johnson said, “for no good reason.” In January that resulted in too many planes packing into the airport with none leaving.
Isaac and Johnson also recommended what’s called a “time-based metering system,” a computer system that allows incoming planes to land on time intervals based on a certain number of arrivals per hour.
Demand for takeoffs and landings is at its height between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Isaac and Johnson recommended educating pilots about the delays they may experience during those times and offering alternate arrival and departure times when delays are less likely.
They also recommend a reservation system for private planes that works around the arrival and departure times for scheduled commercial flights.
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Amid the pre-Thanksgiving gloom of grim pandemic news here in Aspen, across Colorado and the mountain west came a small but significant dose of hope in the unlikely form of an Aspen Music Festival and School announcement.