Letter: Hold that new fixed-base operator
I flew the new 70-passenger Delta nonstop, two-hour flight to Aspen from Minneapolis on Saturday — a clear day with no weather issues. The flight was sold out. We arrived smiling as we approached Aspen at about 1 p.m. But then we were told we were diverting to Grand Junction because there were 41 private planes in line to land ahead of us at Aspen and we had no extra gas to allow us to wait. We arrived in Aspen, after a further “ground hold” due to congestion, five hours late. And as a result, that new plane, which was to return to Minneapolis and fly back to Aspen with a second full flight, could not. The five-hour delay meant the evening return to Aspen had to be canceled because the crew timed out and the Aspen curfew couldn’t be met. So our six grandchildren who were on that Saturday evening flight remain in Minneapolis 24 hours later.
All 280 people scheduled on those four flights lost at least a day of their vacation — not because of weather — but because apparently our airport, and perhaps the FAA, gives no landing priority over private aircraft to commercial flights full of people who have made complex global connections to get to Aspen. Before we offer to be taxed further to expand the airport with a second fixed-base operator for private planes, we need to get our priorities straight. Commercial aircraft must have priority over private aircraft. The rolling fallout from their inability to land on a clear day at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport impacts so many people without the option of landing in Eagle or Rifle as the privates do and ruins so many vacations as well as Aspen’s reputation, I wouldn’t want to begin planning a new airport expansion without resolving these issues first.