Aspen’s aviation quandary
It is almost amusing to watch the debate in Aspen regarding the expansion of the airport and the arrival of Boeing 737s. As one who is familiar with the area, the history and the aviation industry, I can only laugh at the debate. There are three issues which those living in Aspen need to consider.
First, the Boeing 737 today is a different plane than was introduced in 1967. It is larger, better powered and much quieter.
Second, airlines face a pilot shortage. One report puts the shortage at 635,000 for the world. This means that airlines will park the small CR jets used to fly to Aspen now because they need the trained and qualified people to fly larger planes. By 2020 Aspen will have a choice. 737 service or no service. Sorry folks, Aspen is not so special as for airlines to hold a few small planes just to serve an increasingly irrelevant market.
Third, those who fly to Aspen on private planes are protected. The rich are willing and able to pay those willing to fly the private planes, including the Net Jets, enough to assure they can come and go when they wish.
Thus the decision those in Aspen must make is whether they want to become an exclusive enclave for those who can afford private jets while forcing those who must fly on commercial airlines to travel to other destinations — or accept the large planes the nation’s airlines use.
Be sure of one fact. The nation’s airlines do not care. They will move to the larger planes for system efficiency, profit and to maximize the productivity of the limited pilot supply. Aspen can either accept the transition, or chose to become the billionaires enclave.
Philip K. Verlerger
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