New plane takes over in Aspen |

New plane takes over in Aspen

The BAe-146 flies out of Aspen for the last time today and the new CRJ-700 flies in. The BAe-146, a four-engine jet that served Aspen for 22 years and transported more than 7 million passengers, is making its last flight in North America.”It’s sad to see the airplane that has served the market well all these years move on into aviation history,” said Jim Elwood, director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. “But we’re going to be supplied with one of the coolest new planes in the sky, so it’s bittersweet.”A small send-off ceremony with coffee, cake and T-shirts for passengers is scheduled for today at 8:20 a.m., when the last BAe-146 cruises out of Aspen. The airplane first flew in to Aspen in December 1984, with Air Wisconsin taking over the service in 1991.At 7:18 p.m. today, the first commercial passenger flight of the CRJ-700 will fly into Sardy Field. Flown by SkyWest for United, it will be the first time that a twin-engine regional jet has served Aspen commercially. The Bombardier/Canadair CRJ-700 is a 66-seater that flies at a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet and speed of up to 544 mph. The center aisle has enough headroom for most people to stand up, and every passenger has either an aisle or window seat. The CRJ-700 is split into three sections, with six first-class seats, 28 economy-plus seats, and 32 economy seats. As the CRJ-700 is phased into service, initially there will be one flight daily from Denver in addition to six daily Dash-8 turboprops flown by Mesa Airlines. On June 8, when United’s summer schedule begins, there will be six daily CRJ-700 flights in addition to the Dash-8 flights. On the same day, SkyWest will begin daily service to Salt Lake City for Delta Airlines. And on June 9, United will begin offering nonstop summer flights from Los Angeles. By July 5, United will have a total of 14 daily flights from Denver and nonstops from Los Angeles on the weekends, creating the strongest commercial service Aspen has ever seen in the summer. “Roughly half of our out-of-state visitors use this airport to get here. That is a hugely significant key to this resort’s success,” said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen/Snowmass. “It’s going to be a significant improvement for transportation to and from this resort. Other carriers are going to be watching with great interest.”In the last year there had been some worry about service into Aspen since Air Wisconsin announced its service would end. The BAe-146 can descend more quickly than the average jet, so it was up in the air whether officials would find another plane to service the mountainous area. “We’re working closely with SkyWest to make sure we’re ready so there is no impact to the customer in the end,” Elwood said. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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