Environmental impact of new flights uncertain | AspenTimes.com

Environmental impact of new flights uncertain

Abigail Eagye

Aspen’s airport has been credited as one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the valley, so the addition of new flights could mean more pollution.But a study released last year that included data on the airport didn’t consider the type of aircraft flying in and out of Aspen, said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass. Instead, he said, that report relied on “general extrapolations” based on the industry as a whole.In April, the type of jet United Airlines used on its Aspen flights was discontinued in North America. The new jets are more environmentally friendly, he said.And the planes Frontier Airlines plans to purchase are the “most environmentally friendly aircraft ever built,” Tomcich said, earning them the moniker “the green machine.”If Frontier flights from Denver to Aspen become a reality, that could mean fewer rental cars cruising into the valley from other airports, he said.But that doesn’t necessarily mean good news for the environment.The city’s environmental health department hasn’t looked at types of aircraft flying to Aspen or the effect of planes versus cars specifically, said Lacy Gaechter, a special projects coordinator for the department.But “as a rule of thumb, your seat on the airplane tends to pollute more than if you drive your own car,” she said.”If Frontier’s going to be flying on biodiesel jet fuel, that could be different,” she joked.Without specific studies, it’s impossible to say exactly what the environmental tradeoffs are between cars and cleaner planes, but Tomcich is certain the new United aircraft and the planes Frontier plans to buy can only be a step in the right direction.”There’s no question in my mind anecdotally that we’re doing the right thing,” he said.Tomcich said he would “love to see more detail” on the airport’s environmental footprint, but limited resources have prevented such efforts.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com