Harman Patil (Editor)

Aspen–Pitkin County Airport

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Airport type  Public
Elevation AMSL  7,820 ft / 2,384 m
15/33  8,006
Code  ASE
Phone  +1 970-920-5380
Serves  Aspen, Colorado
Website  AspenAirport.com
8,006  2,440
Elevation  2,384 m
Owner  Pitkin County, Colorado
Aspen–Pitkin County Airport
Address  233 W Airport Rd, Aspen, CO 81611, USA

Aspen–Pitkin County Airport (IATA: ASE, ICAO: KASE, FAA LID: ASE), also known as Sardy Field, is a county-owned public-use airport located three nautical miles (6 km) northwest of the central business district of Aspen, in Pitkin County, Colorado, United States.


Facilities and aircraft

Aspen–Pitkin Co./Sardy Field covers an area of 573 acres (232 ha) at an elevation of 7,820 feet (2,384 m) above mean sea level. It has one asphalt paved runway designated 15/33 which measures 8,006 by 100 feet (2,440 x 30 m).

For the 12-month period ending September 30, 2013 the airport had 35,772 aircraft operations, an average of 98 per day: 53% general aviation, 21% air taxi, 26% scheduled commercial, and 0.01% military. At that time there were 82 aircraft based at this airport: 88% single-engine, 6% multi-engine, 2% jet and 4% glider.

Aspen-Pitkin Co. Airport has more regular service from major carriers than any other regional ski town airport in North America. In the winter, its regular, weekly flights number more than 170 (not including extra flights often run during busy holiday seasons). In addition to regular service from Denver, Aspen sees more than 20 flights a week from Chicago and Los Angeles.


In 2007, the runway was completely rehabilitated with new grooved asphalt. A partial length parallel taxiway A is located 320 ft (98 m) from the runway centerline on the east side of the runway, and serves general aviation on the north end of the airport and the commercial terminal on the south end. The airport meets modified FAA D-III airport reference code standards.

On April 4, 2011, the airport began a $15.5 million runway extension project which added 1,000 feet of runway length to the existing 7,006 feet long runway. This project was completed on November 2, 2011.


The Aspen–Pitkin County airport terminal is a 44,000 square feet (4,100 m2) single floor facility, which has undergone several renovations since its original construction in 1976. The airport terminal hosts six rental car operations, a year-round guest services operation, and restaurant and gift shop concessions. As of the fall 2009, the airport is undertaking a terminal area plan, which is evaluating potential improvements to the existing facility, or the construction of a new facility on or near the existing terminal site. This study is expected to be complete in 2010.

Airport improvements

Several airport improvements are planned or underway at the Aspen–Pitkin County Airport. An environmental assessment for a proposed extension of 1,000 ft (300 m) to the airport's existing runway was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in June 2010. That same month the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners approved the land use application for the runway extension project, giving the green light for construction. The extension will be at the south end of the runway, and used only for takeoffs to the north. (Due to high terrain south of the airport, the Aspen/Pitkin County airport typically operates in a "contra-flow" operation, with arrivals landing to the south and departures taking off to the north.) The runway extension will not alter the airport's existing aircraft wingspan limitation or aircraft weight limit. It will allow existing commercial aircraft to fill more seats on existing flights, seats which can be unavailable due to the high density altitudes often experienced at the airport.

Construction on the runway extension project began on April 4, 2011, and was completed on November 2, 2011.

The airport is also conducting an update of its 2004 Airport Master Plan. This plan, scheduled for completion in late 2011 will update the airport activity forecasts and further evaluate potential improvements to the west side of the airport that were broadly identified in the 2004 Airport Master Plan.

One of the potential improvements included in the 2012 Updated Master Plan is the construction of a new airport terminal. The new terminal would be an 80,000 square foot, two story structure with eight boarding gates. If constructed, it will be capable of serving a projected 250,452 enplanements by 2017. The estimate of this new terminal, along with a proposed underground parking structure, is $121.8 million.

Operating limitations

Per Title X of the Pitkin County Code, the airport has several unique operating limitations. Due to non-standard runway/taxiway separation, the airport has a 95 ft (29 m) aircraft wingspan limitation. Aircraft weight is restricted to 100,000 pounds (45,000 kg) maximum certificated gross landing weight or less. The Aspen – Pitkin County Airport also has an airport operating curfew. No aircraft operations are permitted between 23:00 local and 07:00 local. No aircraft departures are permitted after 22:30 local. FAR Part 36 Stage II aircraft operations are not permitted more than 30 minutes after official sunset.

Airport operations

The Aspen–Pitkin County Airport is certificated as a Class I, ARFF Index B commercial service airport under FAR Part 139. The airport's operations department is responsible for daily compliance with FAA Part 139, including daily airport safety inspections, rules and regulations enforcement, and aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF). In July 2009, the airport took delivery of a new, state of the art Oshkosh Striker 1500 Index B ARFF truck. Mutual aid response to airport incidents is provided by the Aspen Fire Department, Pitkin County Sheriffs Department, Aspen Ambulance, and others.

Airport operations staff operates from the airport's Operations Center, constructed in 2006 on the west side of the airport. This facility houses airport operations and facilities maintenance staff, as well as the airport's fleet of ARFF, snow removal, and other airport equipment.

Current commercial aircraft & past airline service

  • Envoy Air flies the Canadair CRJ-700 regional jet on behalf of American Airlines.
  • Republic Airlines flies the Bombardier Q400 turboprop on behalf of United Airlines operating as United Express
  • SkyWest Airlines flies the Canadair CRJ-700 regional jet on behalf of United Airlines operating as United Express as well as on behalf of Delta Air Lines operating as Delta Connection.
  • SkyWest has also begun operations on behalf of American Airlines flying as American Eagle.
  • Historically, the airport was served by a number of airlines over the years including Aspen Airways which introduced the first scheduled passenger jet service into Aspen with the British Aerospace BAe 146-100. Aspen Airways first aircraft were surplus Douglas DC-3s.

    Before initiating jet service, Aspen operated Convair 580 turboprops as well as other prop and turboprop aircraft. Aspen Airways went on to become a United Express carrier and was then subsequently acquired by Air Wisconsin which continued to serve the airport with BAe 146 jetliners operating as United Express. Another BAe 146 jet operator that served Aspen was TriStar Airlines with nonstop service to Los Angeles.

    Business Express and Mesaba Airlines, both operating as Northwest Airlink, respectively flew the Avro RJ70 and Avro RJ85, later versions of the BAe 146 jet, on seasonal nonstop flights to Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis on behalf of Northwest Airlines. Rocky Mountain Airways served Aspen as well with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter twin engine turboprops and later with new, 50 passenger DHC-7 Dash 7 four engine turboprops. RMA was the worldwide launch customer for the Dash 7 and was also Aspen Airways primary competitor on the Aspen-Denver route for many years. Rocky Mountain Airways later operated Continental Express feeder service into Aspen with its turboprop aircraft when Continental Airlines operated a connecting hub in Denver. In addition, Mesa Airlines served the airport flying de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 turboprops with flights to Denver operating as United Express and also separately as America West Express with Dash 8 flights to Phoenix. Mountain Air Express (MAX) served Aspen as well flying Dornier 328 propjets via a codesharing agreement with Western Pacific Airlines which was based in Colorado. An early commuter airline which served Aspen during the mid 1970s was Western Air Stages operating Handley Page Jetstream propjets with nonstop service to Colorado Springs.

    More recently, Lynx Aviation flying on behalf of Frontier Airlines operated Bombardier Q400 turboprops into Aspen. The Q400 is the latest, largest and fastest version of the Dash 8; however, this feeder service to Denver for Frontier was subsequently discontinued.

    General aviation

    General aviation services are provided by Atlantic Aviation, the airport's sole fixed-base operator.

    Accidents and incidents

  • On 14 January 1970, an Aspen Airways Convair CV-240-12 (registration N270L) landed on the runway with its landing gear raised. The pilot in command wanted to keep the airspeed above 130 knots in case a go-around was required, and failed to extend the landing gear on short final. The gear warning horn did not sound. There were no injuries.
  • On 5 January 1989, a Federal Express Cessna 208B Super Cargomaster (registration N945FE) executed a missed approach but failed to do so in accordance with published missed approach procedures, resulting in a collision with trees. The pilot, the only occupant, was uninjured.
  • On 13 February 1991, a Richmor Aviation Learjet 35A (registration N535PC) stalled and collided with terrain and killed all three people on board. The FAA determined the flight crew's failure to maintain airspeed and control of the aircraft, as well as the execution of an unstabilized approach and the snow-covered mountainous terrain, to be contributing factors.
  • On 6 January 1996, a Learjet 60 (registration XA-ICA) touched down in a snow-covered field 1,000 ft from the runway threshold and 25 feet right of the runway centerline. The nose gear collapsed and the aircraft slid through several snow berms before coming to a halt on the runway at the 4,000 ft mark. It was determined by FAA investigators that sun glare, the snow-covered runway, and the airport's failure to properly remove snow from the runway were the causes for the crash.
  • On 29 March 2001, a Gulfstream III (registration N303GA), owned by Avjet Corporation, crashed on approach to runway 15 killing all 18 occupants on board. The flight crew's operation of the aircraft below minimum descent altitude without visual reference with the runway was determined to be the main cause, but the FAA also recognized that an unclear NOTAM that was issued for the approach confused the flight crew. Additionally, the FAA's failure to communicate the restrictions to Aspen Tower controllers contributed. The pilot was also under pressure to land from the charter customer.
  • On 7 June 2009, a Learjet 60 (registration N500SW) veered off the runway on landing and came to a rest on the right side of the runway with a collapsed right main gear, with no injuries to the eight persons on board.
  • On 5 January 2014, a Bombardier Challenger 600 (registration N115WF) crashed upon landing and experienced a post-impact fire, killing one occupant and seriously injuring the other two persons on board. While an investigation has yet to be conducted, it is speculated that the weather conditions played a significant role in the crash. The weather report given to the aircraft's pilot in command shortly before the accident indicated that there was a 33-knot tail wind and low visibility, while other landing aircraft reported low-level windshear and a gain in airspeed of up to 20 knots.
  • References

    Aspen–Pitkin County Airport Wikipedia

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