Answered 6/3/2024 by John Bauer, Northwest Mountain Regional Manager for the Federal Aviation Administration

Updated Q&A with The Federal Aviation Administration

Would the FAA approve an Airport Layout Plan (ALP) that maintains ASE's current runway geometry and modification of standards if the County commits to pay for construction/reconstruction without accepting future FAA grants?

FAA Response: No. The FAA will not approve an ALP at ASE that does not meet the 400’ runway/taxiway separation standard. In 2013, Pitkin County submitted an ALP update showing 320’ runway/taxiway separation on the west side of the airfield. We responded with the following in the ALP approval letter:

The FAA’s approval of this ALP does not apply to the proposed runway/taxiway separation distance of 320’ on the west side of Runway 15/33. FAA is evaluating this nonstandard separation distance and will continue to coordinate the issue with Pitkin County.

The FAA approved the current ALP, submitted by Pitkin County, on May 17, 2016, which showed a path forward to meet the 400’ runway/taxiway separation standard. Pitkin County’s submission of the May 17, 2016, ALP demonstrates that is practical to meet standards at the existing airport site. The FAA will not approve any future ALPs that do not meet the 400’ runway/taxiway separation standard.

Would the FAA allow ASE to maintain the current airfield geometry and MOS if the county pays for airfield maintenance without FAA discretionary grants? Does this change if a project's scope constitutes reconstruction/construction of the airfield?

FAA Response: ASE can pay for the airfield maintenance in the runway’s current location using its own funds. However, as the FAA has communicated, the current 320’ runway/taxiway separation does not comply with FAA standards. Per our email dated February 12, 2024, for a project to be eligible for Federal funding (entitlement or discretionary), the project must be shown on the approved ALP. Since 2021, the FAA has helped maintain the existing runway and taxiway pavement with 4 grants totaling over $12M, and an additional grant anticipated this year estimated at $3.5M. With the expenditure of that $15.5M of FAA funding on runway and taxiway maintenance, the FAA will not invest additional funding to maintain the existing runway and taxiway pavement. The next FAA investment will be to reconstruct the runway in the location shown on the approved ALP.

As previously stated in our February 12, 2024, email …..Pitkin County, as the sponsor of the airport, has received $116.5M in federal grant funding since 1982 and is required to follow all grant assurances. This includes grant assurances 11. Pavement Preventive Maintenance-Management and 19. Operation and Maintenance, regardless of if federal funding is given to assist with the project.  It is the airport sponsor’s responsibility to maintain a functional and safe airport.

If ASE chooses to reconstruct the runway in its current location, the MOS will be terminated, and the County will no longer have an approved ALP. Under statute, without an approved ALP, the FAA cannot provide funding, to the County for airport improvements or maintenance.

If ASE reconstructs the runway to its current geometry without an FAA approved ALP is it likely that the FAA would issue a Notice of Investigation under CRF 14 Part 16, initiating the due process review and hearing process to determine grant violations and corrective actions?

FAA Response:  Pitkin County is obligated under its existing grant assurances because it has accepted funds under the Airport Improvement Program and other FAA grant programs.  Grant Assurance #29 obligates the County to have a current, approved ALP at all times. The Agency has discretion to initiate the Part 16 investigation, as one option available to us, to investigate the potential violation of grant assurances. 

In the case of ASE, as was stated previously, if ASE chooses to reconstruct the runway in its current location the MOS will be terminated, and the County will no longer have an approved ALP. Under statute, without an approved ALP, the FAA cannot provide funding to the County for airport improvements or maintenance.

If a lower enplanement growth rate had been approved in the fleet forecast (e.g. 0.6%) would that have justified a smaller critical design aircraft than the Airbus A220-300 (e.g. the Embraer 175 or Airbus A220-100)?

FAA Response: The FAA does not approve constrained forecasts.  Proposing a constrained forecast in an attempt to limit or control the type of aircraft that can service ASE is considered an access restriction and could constitute a potential violation of ASE’s grant assurance obligations.  If 0.6% was the projected unconstrained growth rate, it would not have significant impact on the critical aircraft. Pitkin County has previously submitted documents to the FAA listing the A220-300 as the critical aircraft. The design standards associated with the A220-300 best represent the type of aircraft that will serve ASE well into the planning horizon.

Frequently Asked Questions for the FAA

John Bauer, Northwest Mountain Regional Manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, met with Pitkin County Commissioners and the Airport Advisory Board during a work session on April 11, 2023. The meeting was open to the public and Bauer took questions from members of the public.

The following frequently asked questions for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including the sub-questions, which are bulleted, were developed based on recurring themes from public forums, including but not limited to community events, letters to the editor, guest columns and paid advertising.

Click here to watch the video of FAA Northwest Mountain Regional Manager, John Bauer’s conversation with the Airport Advisory Board and Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners. The conversation was held April 11, 2023.

Introductory statement from Brad Jacobsen, Airport Layout Plan (ALP) process lead:

As part of the ALP update, we were tasked with developing a 20-year forecast of aviation activity at the airport. Using industry-standard forecasting methods, and based on the data, we came up with a range of potential forecast outcomes. The FAA requires that we submit a single most likely forecast outcome for their approval that we can use for facility planning purposes going forward. So in contemplating how we selected which of the scenarios would be the most likely outcome, we considered a number of factors, chief among them, the community’s feedback and input from the Common Ground Recommendations and the visioning process, as well as input and feedback from our friends at the FAA. 

Now, as is sometimes the case, those two positions, the community position in the FAA position, did not align perfectly. So as we prepare the final detailed draft forecast that we will present to the Airport Advisory Board next week, we thought it would be very helpful if the FAA could address the community directly to answer some of these questions and provide some context and some clarity around these issues where we’re not exactly aligned. So that’s where we’re at today.

Q&A with the FAA Northwest Mountain Regional Manager, John Bauer

Each of the following answers are directly from the special meeting on April 11, 2023 between the FAA and the Airport Advisory Board and Board of County Commissioners and in response to questions gathered from the community by the Airport Advisory Board. Each response is accompanied by a timestamp that corresponds with the video recording of the meeting.

Why, from the FAA’s perspective, are changes needed at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE)?

  • (9:56) John Bauer: Every answer I give to any questions you have are going to be centered around safety and access. The FAA has a perspective on changes needed at the airport. Rewinding quite a ways back to 2012-2013. When we started having some conversations during the master planning effort the airport had put forward another modification request for a west-side taxiway at 320 feet. And we replied at that time, that we don’t support a modification at 320 feet, and that we would continue to work with the county to coordinate the differences between our positions. It’s a modification to a design standard. The standard separation for a runway and  taxiway for a design group three airport is 400 feet. Right now, you currently have 320 feet on the east side, you’re proposing 320 feet on the west side. We said we needed to have some conversations that launched a whole series of air service studies. It was three different phases of studies that Aspen/Pitkin County Airport actually took on themselves.
  • With respect to those changes, what is the FAA’s role? (13:50)
    Bauer: So are changes needed? What Aspen realized back in 2013 was aircraft are changing. So if you want to keep commercial service, that 95-foot wingspan restriction is not always going to be able to be in place with some of the new aircraft coming online. And if you go back and review the previous studies, that’s what all of them said, these are the typical aircraft that we see serving Aspen. So FAA’s role is to really provide advice and guidance and say: Where are you at from a grant assurance perspective? Where are we from a partnering perspective on funding? And, how do we move as Brad [Jacobsen] said, maybe some of those views closer together? I will just tell you, the agency (FAA) from a regulatory role is rigid, but there it is, I’ll say it. So just be prepared for that. We’re going to continue to have conversations.

Could ASE, or any commercial airport, be run without the FAA?

  • For example, is there an approach to “privatization” or “localization” whereby all non-safety decisions are made locally, and not subject to FAA rules, but the FAA remains in control of safety-related decisions and the airport remains eligible for federal funding? 


(15:54) Bauer: I think people who had coined that phrase have kind of said, that’s a local Aspen thing, the FAA doesn’t recognize what is being called localization, it’s just not something that we have in our, in our vernacular it is privatization. And it is really switched to airport Investment Partnership Program, that’s the phrase we use, privatization. Privatization is an opportunity for an airport sponsor to take on a third party.

There are a couple of ways to enter into an operating agreement, whereas that third party would operate the airport, all of the statutory requirements of the grant assurances would still apply to the sponsor. But they would have a third party running the airport, basically. It’s an opportunity, as you dig a little bit deeper, and these are all of these types of programs have to be approved at the FAA headquarters level, it’s done through our compliance group., it’s very statutorily driven about what we can and can’t do under this program. 

 The other option is you can actually find a third party that takes over everything. And something is happening with your grant assurances, who do we go after there is a way under privatization, it’s very limited, but there is a way to transfer those to a third party, but they are still required to adhere to all the same grant assurances that the County currently has today. So it’s important to understand what privatization is, and what it isn’t, a way around your grant assurances. Privatization does not give afford you an opportunity to put noise restrictions in place, it does not afford you an opportunity to discriminate against certain types of aircraft or limit access to the airport. None of those things happen under privatization. 

It’s very controlled, very direct. And I think that answer is potentially both options because the safety decisions are not necessarily made by the agency. They’re made in partnership-, This is the standard, and how are you going to meet that standard? Or how are you going to provide that equivalent level of safety, but the general operation of the airport is also in control, always of the sponsor? With the exception of restrictions, you can’t restrict the airport, you can’t say, Well, we’re going to limit growth to x. You can’t say, we don’t want this particular aircraft in, but we want this particular aircraft. If they’re in that same group, you can’t unjustly discriminate against them. It would not relieve you of your grant assurances entering into privatization, But depending on how that agreement is worded, it would then transfer over to the person you’re transferring control or the facility over. So in actuality, you’d be removing yourself from the airport potentially and your say in the airport, and would be transferred to a third party under privatization. 

(EXAMPLE) Additionally, would such a program allow the County to make its own decisions about what kinds of aircraft could operate it, ask them no. I mean that within the context of if it’s, let’s say we’re a group three, right, so the modification to standard is one thing, the 95-foot wingspan restriction (is a conversation we’re gonna have I’m sure today.) When that’s gone, it’s gone. So anything that fits into That group three would be allowed to come into the airport, you can’t discriminate against them.

  • Under the FAA’s Airport Investment Partnership Program, are there ways to retain past and future grant support while also increasing local control of noise, environmental and safety rules, so long as those rules apply to all users and thus aren’t unjustly discriminatory?

(14:51) Bauer: The FAA remains in control of safety-related decisions. And the airport remains eligible for federal funding to be under the FAA Airport Investment Partnership Program, are there ways to retain past and future grant support, while also increasing local control of noise, environmental and safety rules, so long as those rules apply to all users and thus aren’t unjustly discriminatory, with such a program relieved the County have any grant assurance obligations other than those regarding use of the airport revenues and federal grant repayment.

  • Would such a program relieve the county of any grant assurance obligations other than those regarding use of airport revenues and federal grant repayment?  

see above

  • Additionally, would such a program allow the county to make its own decisions about what kinds of aircraft could operate at ASE?  

Bauer: No, you can’t restrict the airport, you can’t say, we’re going to limit growth to x. You can’t say, we don’t want this particular aircraft in, but we want this particular aircraft. If they’re in that same group, you can’t unjustly discriminate against them.

ASE is a Group III (ADG III) airport with a number of “Modifications to Standards” – 85 to be exact. Is the FAA requiring ASE to eliminate all “Modifications to Standards?”

  • When the FAA is considering modifications to standards and how it recognizes local constraints, could you please help us understand how it thinks about that choice?

(24:51) Bauer: Right now I only know of two airports that have wingspan restrictions that are in place. It’s Aspen and Hailey, Idaho. Within that context, when the taxiway was moved from 221 1/2 feet to 320 feet, quite a bit of calculation was done about how did they come up with a 95-foot wingspan. And we have certain standards that we look at and certain calculations that we do when we look at a modification to standard- at the time, the phrase that was used was an equivalent level of safety. So what wingspan for 320 feet in group three would provide an equivalent level of safety at Aspen? And that answer came out to be 95 feet. 

So under that existing modification to standard if you don’t have aircraft that fit within that. And everything else has been retired. There are issues with your commercial service. And I think that was really what drove those three studies, that Pitkin County sponsored back in the 2013-2014 timeframe was that concern. And that was what we were reacting to as well. We were also the county was reacting to our comments about, we don’t think we’re going to consider a mod for 320 feet on the west side, we think we’re gonna push you to figure out a way to make 400 feet work. So we can start to work on that access and remove those modifications to standards. 

And that, in turn, resulted in the conversation about air service and how are we going to continue. What does our future look like? And so does that might get into the meat of your question.

(24:25) Bauer: Back to the original safety and access questions the answer is absolutely. We are interested in safety, first and foremost. But we are also interested in access to the facility when federal funding is involved, which dictates that kind of fair and level playing field for access.

  • Does the FAA’s consideration rely solely on private discussions with the sponsor, or also assess diverse public sentiment—and how does it learn of that sentiment?

(21:00) Bauer: I’ll answer the second part first. This is a great example of how we learn that sediment. I mean, we, we do reach out throughout planning processes, we are involved in public meetings throughout the last environmental throughout the last planning process, we were involved in all of those public meetings. So we had people there, we had staff there. We took written comments during the environmental process, and we will continue to do that, that will change. 

It’s not a backroom deal where we’re, we’re sitting there whispering to do the County, you know, this is what we expect. We have a very open and public process when we go through any planning or environmental process., That is part of the law. It dictates that the process is important for us to understand what parts might require a little bit of clarification around local constraints. 

We’ve got geography constraints, obviously, at Aspen, we’ve got River, Highway, and a rather large mountain range. All around. So we’ve got geographical constraints if you’re talking local constraints about access restrictions, or things that locals would say, we don’t want this in our community, we really don’t consider those in our we are, again, back to what I started with standards, safety, access, those are the things that we frame, everything we do around. So we hear those concerns. And if they, if they’re somehow able to meld into the project, and they fit within the standards, the safety, and the access piece, we absolutely take that into account. 

But we’re a very standards-driven organization, for good reason. It wouldn’t be required to fix all 85 not physically possible. So I mean, they’re just some things like the runway slope is a great example. I think it comes up later in a question. You know, we’d have to build a 90-foot-tall retaining wall right next to the highway and move part of one of the mountains into that to fill it to get so no, but we’re focused very heavily on certain things that really, really impact the operations here like runway taxiways. So we do acknowledge that are going to be modifications still apply in place, after whatever program comes out of our efforts.

Is the FAA’s insistence on eliminating Modifications to Standards at ASE just for safety or for some other reason as well?

(24:25) Bauer: So back to back to the original safety and access. And I mean, that really is the answer to that question is absolutely. We are interested in safety, first and foremost. But we are also interested in access to the facility when federal funding is involved, which dictates that kind of fair and level playing field for access.

From a safety, service and funding standpoint, what would happen if ASE chooses not to address the Modifications to Standards needed to meet all ADG III requirements? If the airport does not address the runway/taxiway separation tied to the 95-foot wingspan limit and 100,000 lb landing weight limit, what would the FAA do? Would the FAA refuse further funding for airport operations and capital improvements? What circumstances might cause ASE to lose FAA funding, and what could be the financial and operational implications?

(27:55) Bauer: So we were weighing in on certain things and in that process. So we now know it’s possible to meet the runway taxiway separation at Aspen, whether that be shifting the runway to the west, or shifting the taxiway to the east, it can be done. So, would we remove all funding? The answer to that is No, we wouldn’t. 

 And to make it just explain it as simply as possible. You have what’s called an entitlement because of the number of passengers in a plane and the way they operate, the airport operates. Congress has a formula that says, Aspen will get x number of dollars, and those are entitlement dollars. And it’s exactly like it sounds, it’s an entitlement. The only way for the agency to take away entitlement dollars is for us or an outside party to file what’s called a part 16. It’s a regulatory process where somebody complains that the airport isn’t living up to their statutory requirements under the grant assurances. And we put that through a process if the sponsor is true, and the sponsor is found in noncompliance and chooses not to bring themselves back into compliance. Based on what we call a director’s determination under that, if you’re found in noncompliance, we can then take your entitlement dollars away, where, what we wouldn’t do if you choose not to move forward and meet standards, we wouldn’t provide discretionary funding. And that is exactly what it sounds like. It’s at our discretion, it’s at the Secretary’s discretion where those funds go. And that is, that’s a large amount of what it takes to actually do some of the bigger programs like we’re talking about at Aspen. I think typically, I want to say we’re about 2.3 million, roughly, and entitlements a year. 

So would you lose all your funding? No, but you would be put in a category where we wouldn’t be looking at spending discretionary money at Aspen until we could work together to come to some conclusions about how we were going to meet those standards. And I think that kind of answers part two, part three, would the FAA demand or take legal action to recover grant monies paid to the county over the years? If so, how far back? Would we go? Quite honestly, I always refer to this as the nuclear option. It’s not what we’re in the business of doing. We are in the business of developing airports to standard and providing access.

Would the FAA demand or take legal action to recover grant monies paid to the County over the years?  If so, how far back would the FAA go?

Bauer: It does us no good. From an agency perspective, to try and claw back funds that have already been spent. Can we? Absolutely. Is it statutory allowed? Absolutely. Does it happen? In some cases, it does. But it is the last resort. That is when we have met 1000 times and we can’t come to any conclusions. And we’re forced into that from a legal process. And that would be the part 16 process. That would be an extension of that from a corrective action plan. And just so we’re clear that that is the agency’s administrative process. After that the director’s decision can be appealed through an administrative process internally to F A and D O T. And then outside once that’s done, Administrative Law Judge hears and makes a ruling, either upholding or overturning, and then it can go to the court of US Court of Appeals, and then obviously, the US Supreme Court if they choose to hear it. So there’s more than just this, the agency saying this is what’s going to happen, you are afforded due process before any of that happens.

Can ASE increase runway/taxiway separation and keep the current 95-foot wingspan limit and 100-foot runway width, and why?

  • Does ASE have to widen the runway to 150 feet if the critical aircraft we’re designing the airport for is less than 150,000 pounds?

 Why do we have to give up the current 100,000 pounds landing weight limit?

(27:55) Bauer: So I would start with the 100,000-pound landed weight restriction. We technically don’t recognize that. It’s kind of an oddity in our world, landing weight isn’t typically how those things are looked at. It’s typically the max takeoff weight. That’s a placard. item that we know for aircraft they have as a set certified maximum takeoff weight. We don’t really look at that what we’re part of that comes from from the agency’s perspective is, that’s what the pavement is designed to right now. So what it’s hard for some communities to understand is the pavement can take more than that, right? From an engineering standpoint, you can have operations at 120- 130,000 pound aircraft, you just can’t have them regularly, because you then start to deteriorate the pavement in a way that isn’t acceptable from a maintenance standpoint for the county or for the agency. 

So it’s a little bit of a misnomer because we do have weight limits, but they can be exceeded. You just the airport has to be on top of how often and how frequently are getting in those heavier aircraft. So that’s the first thing that kind of unraveled with the question. So if we now know, right, through extensive work, I mean, we spent several years going through options. There were 17. At one point when we sat down with picking County, all driven by the County, I want to make sure that that is clear all those options were driven by the County and what the County saw as the need for the airport and we were weighing in with them on those options. You can’t do this that’s not safe.

  • Could ASE maintain the existing 320-foot runway/taxiway separation? 

(34:36) Bauer: Yes, you can. But again, we then go into kind of an entitlement only situation. You also have to ask your question, the question, what does that do to our air service over the long term? Well, how do we handle the changes in aircraft? The airline industry is an interesting industry. And they don’t often make changes based on one aircraft, one airport, decisions, they make it on a global scale that, and airports just kind of get it is what it is, you know, the aircraft that they decide to buy, drives where they’re going to serve. So that is a question that you all have to ask yourselves from a planning perspective. How comfortable are you with that?

  • Could a 100-foot wide runway meet ADG III standards without modification? If not, what studies support the change from 100 feet to 150 feet? 

(34:46) Bauer: So the answer to actual question six is no. So if you increase the taxiway to runway separation, the 95-foot limitation goes away. It’s not needed. Right? It was put in place because the taxiway was too close, it would be removed.

Will a reconfigured (ADG III) airfield allow bigger planes to operate at ASE?

  • If so, are there mechanisms or conditions that the FAA would allow ASE to employ that would restrict the big aircraft that we don’t want at ASE? 

 (41:35) Bauer: Yes, if you go to 400-foot separation, you will see bigger aircraft as well. It is the same with 150 feet. Yes. Answer that is yes, you will. Is there anything that would allow you to restrict that? So, again, we get back to pavement strength. So, there are going to be certain things that we designed for, right, if we’re designing for 154,000-pound airplanes, you’re not going to want 200,000-pound airplanes coming in here, right? I mean, there, there are some balances to that. It’s not necessarily a restriction. It is an engineering fact, right? You don’t want to, you don’t want to overload the pavement. So while it’s not called out as a restriction, there would be that would payment strength would limit the size of aircraft, we’re also not designing for group four or five or six aircraft. So you’re not going to see a triple-seven, coming into Aspen. Unless there’s some dire emergency and I would hope they would go to Eagle. So. it’s kind of a blurred answer. You don’t need a modification, but we wouldn’t participate. And yes, you’re gonna see bigger aircraft and there’s some natural breaks for where you’re going to see a limit to the size of those aircraft that come in. It sounds like we could design though to have a weight standard to some extent, to some extent, but really the way we look at things today. It’s not even based on like we used to publish single wheel dual wheel strength in pounds. What, is the PCR PCR, so now it’s like PCR, another acronym, but it’s a number. And then there’s flexibility and all of the dispatchers understand what the PCR is what it means, what that limitation is for the aircraft that they can fly into that particular facility. And typically, where that further protects Aspen is most of their insurance companies know what PCRs mean, and they’re not going to allow them to have operations in an airport that really, technically isn’t designed for that type of aircraft use. So so there are some other natural industry barriers that are provided that aren’t that are just there. Aspen doesn’t have to do anything, they just exist.

  • Is the FAA insisting on this redesign regardless, and what is the impetus?

(24:25) Bauer: So back to back to the original safety and access. And I mean, that really is the answer to that question is absolutely. We are interested in safety, first and foremost.

Are there tools that the FAA would allow ASE to employ to limit private (GA) planes at ASE during peak times?

  • Is there some way ASE could restrict GA landings/take-offs that would be allowed by the FAA (e.g., required or incentivized pilot training/safety certifications, slot reservation and/or peak pricing fee systems for landing and/or airplane parking)? 
  • How would you recommend a petition to require or encourage additional pilot training/safety certifications for all GA pilots to be pursued, similar to those required for commercial pilots? From a restriction standpoint, like when you start to talk restriction, the answer from the agency is going to be no. 
  • Do commercial aircraft have any preference in sequencing or does the FAA require that all planes be authorized to land first-come-first-served, regardless of whether they are commercial or GA flights?
  • Are there situations where commercial aircraft are significantly delayed from boarding and/or taking off due to a rush of incoming or outgoing GA traffic? 

(44:08) a-d: Bauer: A lot of those are flight standards-driven, not airports driven. I’ve been pretty clear so far about restrictions at airports. I don’t we don’t like them, the agency doesn’t like them.  I don’t think that there is a mechanism in place that you could say GA you can’t come in while we’re pumping in our commercial flights. It’s just not the way the National Airspace System (NAS) is run. It’s not. And again, I’m straying a little bit from my expertise. So please bear with me a little bit and I will coordinate these with our air traffic folks. But it’s not. Air traffic is not sitting out there. saying you’re a commercial airplane and you’re a GA and you’re a commercial and you’re a GA, they’re saying you’re a plane, and you’re a plane and you’re planning your plane. And I know because of the kind of plane you are, how far I need to have you separate. And so they’re not going to get in the business of saying, Oh, you need to go spin out over Kansas. While we clear all these commercial flights, it’s just not the way they operate. I will verify that and get it back to you in writing. But that would be my take on that particular part of the question. The rest, you know, pilot training, those things are all covered by our flight standards, folks, and they have specific rules on and typically, I think you’re going to hear from them, No, you can’t require more to come into Aspen, then we are the experts in safety, we’ve determined what it takes to fly an aircraft, therefore, this pilot has his pilot’s certificate, and can fly in the NASA National Airspace System.

  • Does the FAA have any preference or differences in evaluation criteria between a privately run Fixed Base Operator (FBO) and a publicly run (municipal/county) FBO?
    (44:08) Bauer: The FAA does not have a preference one way or the other, whether a fixed base operator is operated by the sponsor or by a private entity. We just don’t We don’t have a position on that. We see it both ways.


Is there currently an operational maximum LTO (Landing/Takeoff) level of activity at ASE? If so, what is the limit based on and can it change during a day of operations?

  • What is the LTO limit in perfect weather? How many times has the ASE reached that level? What happens when the FAA sees activity approaching that limit?
  • With the coming of new technologies/avionics can the current limit be increased and if so by how much?
  • Does the FBO have any input as to the setting of the LTO limits?

(47:55) a-c: Bauer: I’m gonna dodge this one again, this is an Air Traffic Flow Rate question is what you’ll hear it called is the flow rate in and out of Aspen, that flow rate is largely dictated by weather and impacted by weather, they will have specific numbers for you, they’ll know the tower folks will know, you know, on a good day, we can do X number in throughput, so they’ll have that flow rate for you. As far as does the FBO have any input into that? Typically, in a roundabout way? Yes. There’s only so much ramp space. So at a certain point, they, they declare kind of no joy. We have no more parking, but we’ve got three spaces for dropping goes, you know, here’s where you can land, drop your folks off, and then you need to come back and pick them up at a later date. So while it’s not a direct say with the agency, it is a how do you fit those puzzle pieces any more puzzle pieces together? I mean, we’ve all seen pictures of the ramp on holiday weekends where I’m amazed that how you fit so many multimillion-dollar aircraft in together as a puzzle, and how did you know that the guy at the very back wasn’t leaving for two weeks? I mean, is that and they have a way they coordinate all of that they’re very good at what they do they know and but it’s kind of a roundabout influence. There are only so many places to park and when those places are full, they’re going to have to do drop and goes and they do I believe and I’m speaking a little bit again out of town but I believe they do make places for dropping goes so they can assure that those people are still getting in and out. So but I will take the other two back, to get more detailed answers. (b-c)

What, if anything, is the FAA doing to modify current airport design and safety requirements in anticipation of future changes to aircraft design?

(50:05) Bauer: So I had to do a little bit of research on this one. We do have a current study, it’s called centerline wandering. And it’s a thing. So what they’re tracking through our research center in Atlantic City is how far off of center line are certain aircraft straying from when they’re on approach like, what, what does that spread look like? Typically that impacts runway width and then runway taxiway separation for some of the newer aircraft and some of the newer technologies that are out there. They are looking at the potential there’s potential they are examining the opportunity to reduce runway width but right now as we understand it, that is only for group six aircraft. 

Does the FAA anticipate that the next generation of cleaner and quieter aircraft will have wider wingspans and require a greater distance between runway and taxiway centerlines?
(50:05) Bauer: So group six aircraft require a 200-foot wide runway and they are looking at whether can they fit within a 150-foot wide window. So the agency is doing research in those regards. They are looking at new equipment and the impacts on the National Airspace System(NAS) but it’s more from a technology that is evolving is keeping things closer to the centerline versus further away from the centerline which wouldn’t necessarily drive an increase in runway taxiway separation standards if that makes sense. I think you’re probably the agency is looking at it from a different viewpoint is there an opportunity that we don’t maybe need as much pavement as we have?

Can an airport forecast and plan for a “critical aircraft” that is not currently in production and/or certified?

  • Would the FAA approve an Airport Layout Plan (ALP) for ASE based on the critical aircraft being one that is not currently in production and/or certified?
  • How can the ALP process prudently manage uncertainties and adapt to changing airside technology? 

(52:08) Bauer: This is a  hugely open-ended question. There are tons of things to look at in the market right now, of how new entrants into the market are coming in. Right. I mean, there are all sorts of things that remind me of the Jetsons. So you’re gonna have to have a charging station where they’re charging and but, you know, that’s largely going to be local decisions, local conversations about emerging markets, and you work with planning staff that you’ve hired to have some of those conversations with, as to the critical aircraft not being in production, the agency would not examine that at this moment. We just can’t, we can’t plan for something that we don’t know whether or not it’s going to be certified or in production. We see a lot, right from an agency perspective and an industry perspective of aircraft that are proposed, that never quite make it to market. And if you were to select a critical aircraft, and again, we’re really more focusing on a family of aircraft versus a single aircraft, we’re really looking at that broader perspective. So we would say no, and we have in the past allowed them to include be included in some of the forecasting models. The only time we’re really comfortable with that is if we know like the aircraft is a real aircraft. It’s a it’s a manufacturer that is a known manufacturer, and they are very, very far down the pipeline. And then and then they could be factored in at some point in the forecasting. And that makes it really tough on people like Brad Jacobsen – (Airport Layout Plan) ALP process lead, when he’s trying to figure out well, how far down the pipeline are they how much is the FAA going to accept what is the FAA not going to accept? And those are all conversations that we have throughout the planning process.

Can the safety improvements program at ASE be phased over time to minimize impacts, starting with terminal redevelopment in advance of airside updates?

(56:00) Bauer: There’s no right answer. So can the Safety Improvement Program at Aspen be phased over time to minimize the impacts? The answer to that is yes, it can be phased, we have been very clear, repeatedly to the point of we will not start on the terminal before the taxiway project starts. We’re a little gun-shy, I don’t mind telling you. I’m pretty candid with my comments. We’ve e been through this process before with Aspen. And we got to a point where we were all the way through the environmental process. And I will remind everybody that was driven by the County, not the FAA, the preferred alternatives, the environmental, the environmental is our document, we sign it, but that environmental was formulated based on a consultant hired by Pitkin County. As the airport advisory board changed, and then we’ve got a brand new terminal that we’ve invested millions of dollars in, and we have no way to make sure that the safety-driven projects are done that are so important to the agency. Could they be phased? They could. Is there an opportunity to do some of that at the same time? Absolutely. I think you’re going to have to, especially when you talk about moving the taxiway and some of the impacts it’s going to have on the existing terminal. Those are all engineering things that will work out in a phasing plan and process. And that will be done based on funding availability. Minimizing shutdown. I mean, that’s very important to the agency as well. I mean, the last thing we want to do is see prolonged shutdowns at any of our airports. We would absolutely work with the sponsor to minimize those.

  • If so, what assurances, if any, would the FAA require regarding the completion of the airside improvements and removal of Modifications to Standards?  
  • If not, what flexibility would the FAA agree to on construction phasing airside vs. landside, and what assurances would the FAA require in that regard?

(58:03 ) Bauer: I have no way to hold you accountable. There is no statutory way for me to hold the County accountable for that. You know, we would obviously be willing to have that conversation. But from today’s perspective and what I understand about our statutory abilities, the answer would be no.

What can ASE do to address the noise concerns and complaints of County residents?

  • What can the FAA do to address those concerns?
  • Would the FAA object to ASE implementing an enforceable noise abatement program similar to programs at airports such as LGB, SNA and SMO?
  • Would it be permissible for ASE to enact any enforceable noise program without going through a 14 CFR Part 161 process?
  • Would the FAA be willing to work with the county on an airport noise compatibility program pursuant to 14 CFR Part 150 and to provide funding for it?

(59:53) Bauer: I’ll start with the easy one first. d. Yes. Your airport is eligible as the county to apply for a part 150 study. What that does is ascertain where noise-sensitive areas are and allow you to put in mitigation measures to eliminate those. But we have a set decibel level, the agency. Currently, all federal government has a set decibel level under which that mitigation can occur at. So if you’re not seeing those levels, then there’s really not a mitigation that would be eligible. But yes, can we fund a part 150 study? Absolutely.

And a part of the 150 Study is a precursor to a part of a 161. So in extreme cases where we identify huge impacts over what the agency has established as our baseline, sponsors can submit a 161 mitigation strategy which basically says we want to do exactly what the first part of the question asked about noise, enforceable noise restriction programs. Those have actually if you go back and look at history, I think it was in 1993 Congress passed the  Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA)which limited those things. Aspen’s curfew is a great example it was in before ANCA, and the agency tried desperately to do away with it before and capacity, it’s grandfathered. Therefore, it is a restriction that was grandfathered before. But no, you can’t put an enforceable noise abatement procedure in place at Aspen. The other problem you have is the flight corridor is very narrow, right in and out. So when you start to look at noise mitigation programs, you then start to look at restrictions as far as operating times, because they’re not a lot of options for how you fly in and out of Aspen from an air traffic perspective. It’s pretty fixed. At other communities, what they say is, you know, climb out at this rate, go this direction, to try and stay above this, and they’re all voluntary. As soon as you add the word enforceable, then becomes a violation of the ANCA. 

That would require you to go through first a 150, and then a 161, you would propose the restriction, and the agency would basically rule whether or not that restriction was valid, and whether or not it could move forward. So most of those places, and I don’t recall, Santa Monica might be an outlier in that. We’re, we’re most likely a small caveat with that, most likely pre-ANCA. Congress told us this is no longer acceptable, we’re losing the functionality of the National Airspace System, and therefore, no more restrictions of this type.

What can ASE do to address the environmental concerns of county residents regarding greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants?

  • What can the FAA do to address those concerns?

(1:04:22) Bauer: I would just start off by saying the agency like every other federal agency is concerned with climate change and some of the things that we’re seeing the agency has various groups within the agency that are exploring alternatives. I am not part of any of those at this point. I am dealing with leaded fuels on a pretty regular basis at this point, which is not the most enviable task in the agency right now. We don’t have again, we don’t have statutory authority. So let’s get let’s jump to some of these proposals on carbon emissions right now the agency, we do not believe we have the statutory authority to allow an airport to do those types of incentives or offsets. We are actually looking into that further based on this question.. But let us look into this a little bit because it’s a little bit intriguing. So we do have people that are actually currently looking at that, and reinforcing whether or not we have statutory provisions or if they are required. Again, our program is permissible. So everything that is written into our laws is what we can do. And if it’s not what we can do, then we can’t do it. So it’s a permission statute, that would have to be changed through Congress?

  • Does the FAA have a research program or applicable regulations on aviation-related air pollutants of human and environmental concern?
  • Does the FAA have regulations or guidance in place regarding the infrastructure, reliability, and safety of the supply and delivery of renewable electricity and hydrogen fuel for emerging aircraft?
  • If ASE proposes to impose a higher landing fee on the basis of an aircraft’s landing weight for the purpose of raising air-side funds for offsets of an aircraft’s carbon emissions, what FAA rules and restrictions apply?
  • If ASE proposes to impose a higher fuel-flowage fee on conventional (not SAF) Jet-A sold to commercial and GA aircraft for the purpose of raising air-side funds for offsets of an aircraft’s carbon emissions, what FAA rules and restrictions apply?

(1:06:13) b-e: Bauer: Right now, we don’t believe we have the statutory authority to do any of these. We do have programs that are underway, we’re looking at alternative fuels for a whole bunch of a wide range of entrants and existing users into the NAS one of which is the leaded fuels issue that we’re examining currently.

 So like incentive programs, right now, like, we don’t have an incentive program.  It would be completely voluntary. Right now, if an airport did it, they couldn’t unjustly discriminate against a certain user. And that would be where you would have fear if you said, I’m going to give this type of or this aircraft and an incentive to fly into Aspen. And then this one doesn’t get it. The one who doesn’t get it will most likely file a complaint based on unjust discrimination. And that’s where we’re saying we don’t have the statutory authority to say it’s not unjust discrimination at this point. So we’ll go back and get some answers on that. But from the fuels, you know, right now, there’s the Eagle program, there are some things that we are doing to get out, get out and resolve some of the issues for like unleaded fuels issue, but not I don’t have a lot of experience with the rest of these, but I can get back to you with clear answers on the hydrogen and some of the other things that they’re exploring right now. And obviously, electric is huge.

In sum, from the FAA’s perspective, is ASE any more dangerous than any other airport? If so, why?

(1:08:26) Bauer: So this is actually easy. We don’t compare airports to airports, we don’t say, Oh, you’re safer than this airport or that airport safer. And we look at everything based on standards, right? I mean, we look at standards and how they apply to Aspen. And how do we achieve the highest level of standards at Aspen? So we don’t have a comparison scale. We don’t read airports that way. An airport is an airport. If you’ve seen one airport, you’ve seen one airport, they all have their own interesting dynamics, and limitations. 

  • What safety elements at ASE are in place to address or mitigate any special dangers? 
  • What additional safety elements are needed or could be employed to increase safety at ASE?
  • Does the FAA have safety concerns regarding ASE’s “Head to Head” operating procedures, current Wildlife Hazard Management Plan, lack of an Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS)? 

(1:08:26) Bauer: Things that cause the need for modifications, the standards, and that is what is in place currently at Aspen. You don’t have a full 400 foot separation. It can be handled by the wingspan restriction. It can also be handled operationally it gets very complicated to do that from an air traffic perspective. Clearing taxiways before somebody comes in making sure there’s nobody on the taxiway when somebody goes out with a larger wingspan. So there are things that can be done operationally versus a modification. And that’s handled by air traffic and they make those determinations at your particular airport that would be cumbersome at best, and it would cause some issues with the flow and how aircraft come in and out. You’ve heard my position on the parallel taxiway [not a safe solution.] But first and foremost in our minds, there’s going to be some others. smaller modifications that we look at. And can we tackle those while we’re doing this? Absolutely. Can we make them better? Absolutely. Are we going to do that? Absolutely. So those are all things that will come out during the design processes. And, if you look at that list of modifications, some of them are much more near and dear to our hearts than others. And some are like we talked about before, it just can’t be fixed because of the natural gradient of that runway. So I think that checks a couple of those off. So the head-to-head operations, so we call it a wraparound approach, we prefer to call it the wraparound approach. That is, again, an air traffic question, from an agency perspective, and knowing what I know about the agency, if we had safety concerns about it, it wouldn’t be happening, it would stop and then we would figure out an alternate so but I will verify with, I’ll talk with the tower manager, I’ll talk with some of the folks in our district for air traffic and just verify that but I can tell you, if the agency had a safety concern with that it would not be happening in National Airspace System.


So John, we often hear from a lot of people that ASC is is a very dangerous airport. And you’re saying you don’t do you don’t compare airports that way. So where does this come from? Can you tell us if you have any idea where where these? These people are getting information about that where the most dangerous airport because it doesn’t seem like that really exist? 

see question 15 

 (1:11:27) Bauer: I think it’s just more challenging for pilots. I mean, obviously, you’ve talked a little bit about the training program for commercial pilots. You know, Sky West has a fairly extensive training program. If you’re going to fly into Aspen. There are challenges that existed Aspen that don’t exist at Denver. I mean, there’s a mountain. So I can’t tell you what’s driving people’s conversation in that regard only I can only speculate. We don’t view this as an unsafe airport. I mean, we do business with you every day. And that means that you’re working with us on safety every day, day in and day out. And we all feel good about that. From the wildlife hazard management plan, I don’t think we have any issues with it. You have one, you’re a part of a 139 Airport, you have one. We don’t have any concerns with a wildlife hazard plan. So II mask just for everybody’s reference engineer, material arresting system that’s typically placed at the end of the runway, it’s crushable concrete. So when a plane goes into it, it actually crushes and slows the aircraft down. We have those places where we don’t have a standard safety area, we have a standard safety area for group three aircraft at Aspen. So we wouldn’t we only employ that at places where it’s physically impossible for us to get that and we try and add that level, an additional level of safety to get what you have. So we wouldn’t be adding it to a standard safety area. We have it at a place. We have it at Telluride. It’s the only place we have it in my district. And it’s because we can’t get that full distance because there’s a cliff on both sides. So cliff and a mountain. We have no concerns that you don’t have.

Additional Community Questions:

Is it true that the FAA will not fund the new passenger terminal at ASE without full ADG-III airside compliance, i.e. wingspans up to 118’?

(1:16:10) Bauer: So I’ve and I’ve answered this, but this is a little bit different spin. It requires a little bit of clarity. Again, there are still going to be modifications to standards that are required under group three for Aspen. We’re, we’re most concerned about runway taxiway and a few others, but that’s the big one that we’re talking about. I answered the other question of, no, we’re not going to fund the terminal before the taxiway gets funded. We fully expect Dan and John and John to ask again, yeah, no doubt. My answer will be the same as it’s been for the last seven years.

Can ASE use fiscal instruments, like fees and rebates, to influence choices that affect air pollution and noise without unjustly discriminating between different aircraft types?

  • That is, can’t we let in all FAA-qualified aircraft, but charge each for its specific impact on our community?
  • How does the FAA’s regulatory philosophy consider differences between aircraft?
  • Since peak pricing, and two-part landing fees are allowed, wouldn’t universally applied and rationally based impact fees also be allowed?

    (1:17:33) a-c: Bauer: So again, that goes back to that we don’t have the statutory authority to say that that’s not unjust discrimination at this point. 


Does the FAA have projections about whether, how much, and how quickly commercial aviation might shift from hub-and-spoke to point-to-point route architectures, which might favor more but smaller planes rather than fewer but bigger ones?

(1:18:10) Bauer: This is actually the easiest question of the day. No, we have no idea.

With due allowance for Aspen’s thinner air, does the FAA think electric air taxis, such as those tested and often announced in NYC, LA, Chicago and abroad, might help connect ASE to airports like Rifle, Vail, and Denver without necessarily needing runways, or even land downtown?

How should we think about this emerging rooftop or mini-vertiport technology as a potential way to relieve some airspace constraints?

(1:18:55) Bauer: I think in some form, we’re going to see a different type of aircraft using the NAS with conventional aircraft. I don’t think one goes away. I think it’s augmentation. But I would, I would say, again, that’s local planning, how do you weigh that out in your planning documents? How do you look at that from even an entrance into Aspen, you know, maybe I fly into Aspen in a conventional airplane, and then I hop on a taxi to get downtown. I mean, nothing’s impossible, right?

Has Class C airspace been considered for ASE?

(1:20:29) Bauer: This is really an air traffic question. Right now you’re under controlled airspace because you have an air traffic control tower. There used to be something called a tray cab here, which is a terminal radar approach control facility and it was actually located in the in with the tower, a lot of those functions have been moved down to the center, either the center or another communications facility. I don’t know why we would go from a controlled airspace to an uncontrolled airspace, especially considering some of the uniqueness of Aspen

Can the FAA explain why ASE is entitled to noise restrictions, air quality studies, and the possibility of a "green" future, while Rifle "county" airport has no such measures in place?

(1:21:36) Bauer: If we’ve allowed noise restrictions, this is referring to the curfew again.. I don’t really know what the question is asking, because we are not certainly in favor of noise restrictions.

Would the FAA consider moving the runway to the terminal side and flipping the terminal to the side on Owl Creek Road?

(1:22:21) Bauer: That has been examined, the FAA is not driving those types of decisions. You have the County that drives those decisions, and the FAA weighs in on standards. So those are all locally driven. County decisions, not FAA decisions, we would absolutely partner with you. If you came to us and said, Hey, we want to look at something that’s out of the box. What do you think of this? And we would go through our normal process of analyzing what that looks like, from a standards perspective.

Would the FAA consider diverting the bigger jets to RIL if a shuttle was provided?

(1:22:58) Bauer: Again, if that’s implying, could you restrict access to certain types of aircraft at Aspen and push them to Rifle? The answer is no, the agency doesn’t support restrictions of that manner. If that’s something that naturally happens over time, and that’s what’s driven by the industry. The agency wouldn’t have any say in it. If the County tried to restrict something in that regard, we would have something to say about it.

Would the FAA anticipate more drop and take-off flights from ASE to refuel in Rifle (RIL) if fuel at RIL is less expensive? And, would more operations at RIL require changes to air traffic control?

(1:23:44) Bauer: You know, very just a very broad question. That’s a good question. We don’t foresee that type of thing. I mean, quite honestly, the people flying into Aspen are not worried about saving two or $3 a gallon on jet fuel. Maybe some of the smaller folks are that are operating smaller aircraft. And most of those are going to do dropping anyway because they’re going to have pilots. We have a lot of Aspen aircraft from folks here that come down and fly to the  Front Range. And then they shuttle over the airport and fly out at Denver, and then they come back and then they come back up and pick up their folks. 

Can you help me understand the difference between entitlement funding and discretionary funding in terms of volume? And how, how that affects an airport? So you said about 2.3 million in discretionary funding annually? If that were to go away? How does that affect an airport? And how does that compare to what entitlement funding?

(1:27:17) Bauer: Entitlement is 2.3 million a year, and that is exactly what it sounds like entitlement. The volume of discretionary varies depending on the program at hand. We have various programs that are happening throughout the airspace system that we’re responsible for just as the background of 117 airports in our district, ranging from DIA and Salt Lake to Rifle and your smaller airports. We get a set amount of what we call our planning ceiling for discretionary a year, typically, right around $70-$80 million. Typically, we’re usually more successful than that, in any given year, we try and make sure we have programs that are ready, that we can take money that other airports can’t spend. On the magnitude at Aspen, like for a program of this size, we would be seeking huge sums of discretionary money. If you were to rehab your runway again, it’s a large number associated with that it’s $2.3 million. And those funds are only good for four years, after that they expire. So if they’re not used, they expire. So we then convert those to discretionary money. But the discretionary pod is a large pot of money annually. When you as a sponsor, say I’m not going to use my entitlement dollars this year, we actually take those money from you. And we convert them to discretionary money and then send them back out into the system. So that pot grows throughout the year as airports decide they’re not going to use their entitlement dollars. It’s very small for an entitlement from the perspective to an extremely large pot of money that we draw from.

If an airport gives up its entitlement funding, can they go higher on the list for discretionary funding? Does it work that way at all?

(1:29:39) Bauer: No! So we have we have certain guidelines that say if you’re putting in for discretionary money, you have to use your entitlement money on that project, but but we have other mechanisms that Aspen has, has fully participated in the past where you’ve said, I’m not going to use my money. And instead of me only getting 1/9 of it back or 1/11 of it back in discretionary, we  have you transferred to another airport. So like Colorado Springs, for instance, or, and Grand Junction. And then they reciprocate. And when, when the next year comes and you need your money, they transfer it back to you. So there are some things that we do from a program standpoint that really benefit that but good question.