Guest commentary: An urge to pause on the Aspen airport plans
To the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners:
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
— Maya Angelou
The majority of our valley residents and the Vision Committee now have new important information since the January 2020 vote was taken to recommend reconfiguration of the airside of ASE. In the nine months since that vote (before the COVID-19 pandemic) the world has changed, and so have our opinions and recommendations. We want to change our vote to no.
Here are the realities that have caused us to reconsider:
1. The CRJ700 will remain a reliable airplane able to serve Aspen for many years. A myth, perpetuated with undocumented rumors since 2013, was that the CRJ700 would be retiring starting in 2018 and would be mostly gone by 2021. This assumption was the impetus for the ASE Visioning process. The following quote is from Nathalie Scott, senior adviser of public relations and media of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (the manufacturer of the CRJ700). Ms. Scott stated Sept. 4, “The Design Life of a CRJ700 is 80K Flight Cycles. FYI, the average of age of the approximately 240 CRJ700s in service in the U.S. as of January 2020 was 14 years … which is still pretty young.” In other words, the CRJ700s are now only about half way into their useful life, meaning they have at least another 14 years.
2. The commercial and private airline industries have been dramatically altered. Since COVID-19 took hold, commercial flights have drastically decreased because of social distancing requirements, and most experts say it will take years to recover. According to Business Insider (July 19, 2020), “The airline industry will be ravaged for years to come, and the effects will be felt across the entire economy, a new Moody’s report says.”
3. We now know that the possibility of clean, quiet, electric aircraft is proceeding faster than anyone predicted. A recent article in The Atlantic described the huge progress being made in electric airplanes. We respectfully request that the BOCC put on their best long-term strategic thinker hats and move outside the box to imagine a whole new concept of airplane and airport design.
Now that we know better, we want to do better. We the undersigned voting members of the Vision Committee (noted by asterisks*) want to change our vote to no.
We are supported by many other community members. While we agree that the terminal needs to be improved, we strongly urge the BOCC to pause for a few years any decision regarding reconfiguration of the airside of ASE. You do not yet have overwhelming and irrefutable evidence that spending a half a billion dollars now is either intelligent or far-sighted. Please pause long enough to reconcile the new world order with the future of Aspen.
Dick Arnold,* John McBride,* Tom Melberg,* Jackie Merrill,* Amory and Judy Hill Lovins, Tom Keough, Michael Kinsley, Sheldon Fingerman, Tim Mooney, Bill Dinsmoor, Wayne Ethridge, Bob Rafelson, Walter Chi, Winifred Norman, David Sontag, Dan Glidden, Kate Spencer, Ellen Anderson, Jay Hughes, Dick and Cornelia Corbett, Denny and Linda Vaughn, Tom and Nadine van Straaten, Mike Waters, Bruce Gordon, Theodore and Bonny DeWeese, Terry and Katrina Garnett, Brian Hazen, Rodger Gurrentz, Rob Pew, Wylie and Alex Melberg, Gene Burrus, Eric and Maggie Scheyer, Steve Arnold, Hugh and Mary Wise.