Private jet leaves runway at Aspen airport
June 8, 2012
ASPEN – The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport was closed for more than four hours Thursday after a corporate Learjet faltered upon landing, veered off the runway and came to a stop near the airport’s operations center.
The airplane was carrying two pilots, six passengers and two dogs. No one was injured in the accident, which occurred at 12:24 p.m., authorities said. All who were aboard were able to exit the aircraft safely.
“We are fortunate that this appears to have been a relatively minor incident. No word yet on the cause. We are relieved that no one was hurt,” said Jim Elwood, director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.
Elwood said the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate the incident. He said he did not know who owned the jet or what caused the accident. Winds were gusting throughout the vicinity of the airport early Thursday afternoon.
Emergency crews discovered after the landing that the aircraft’s landing gear was broken, according to Elwood. He said he didn’t know when the break occurred. The jet also leaked fuel, prompting airport emergency crews to spray it with fire-suppressing foam.
The airport was closed immediately after the incident occurred so that the wreckage and leaking fuel could be cleared from the runway, an airport news release said. Several inbound and outbound flights were canceled. The airport reopened at about 5 p.m. and normal operations resumed.
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An outbound United flight to Denver scheduled to depart at 5:43 p.m. was canceled. The departure of another flight to Denver that was supposed to leave at 6:57 p.m. was expected to be delayed by about 20 minutes. The airport listed several late-evening inbound flights as expected to fly on time.
Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, said he was at the airport at the time of the accident.
“I was on a ramp (near the terminal) with my back to the incident when it happened,” he said. “Pretty scary. There was a lot of commotion and apparently the airplane kicked up a lot of dust before stopping. We’re really lucky that everyone got out safely.”
He said there were several outbound flight cancellations and inbound diversions to other airports Thursday. “There were many disruptions through the afternoon,” Tomcich said.
Elwood said the aircraft was a Learjet 60. That model typically has two engines and 11 seats. An Internet search revealed that the plane departed Opa-locka Executive Airport near Miami at 10:19 a.m. EDT.
Elwood said the aircraft knocked out several runway lights before coming to a stop. “A person could presume that it was sort of moving to the right of the runway for awhile. It broke at least 10 runway lights in the process,” he said.
The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department responded and assisted with the emergency. Officers with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Aspen Police Department also were on the scene.