Airport Open House
On May 22, 2023, the public attended an open house at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, which was temporarily closed for airfield pavement maintenance. In afternoon and evening open house sessions, members of the public visited with Airport Advisory Board members and airport staff about the potential redevelopment of the passenger terminal, airfield, and more. The public was also invited to take a tour of the airfield to learn more about the redevelopment and the maintenance underway at the airport.
What are the Common Ground Recommendations?
“A package of interrelated measures all designed to reflect the Community Values and Goals [developed in visioning process].”
Background: Common Ground Recommendations
- Developed during a two-year community visioning process
- Adopted by Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) in 2020
Core Community Goals
- Safety in the air and on the ground
- Reduce greenhouse gas and other pollutant emissions by at least 30%
- Managed growth of airline enplanements to be consistent with input and assistance from the Airport Advisory Board*
- Reduce noise by at least 30%
*Manage the growth of airline enplanements to be consistent with approximately 0.8% growth per yea
Federal Funding | FAA Coordination
The Aspen/Pitkin County Airport depends on funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for necessary capital and maintenance projects. Airports receive FAA dollars for adhering to safety standards and access requirements.
FAA Primary Mission – Safety and Access
- Safety includes the removal of Modifications to Standards
- Consistent Standards = Safety
- Access includes non-discrimination
- Non-Discrimination = Access to all aircraft legally operating in US
- The airport accepts federal funds for capital projects and maintenance.
- Federal Funds = Adherence to safety standards and access requirements
What if the Aspen Airport (ASE) does not mitigate certain Modifications to Standards, like ASE’s existing 95’ wingspan restriction?
- The airport would only be eligible for roughly $2.3 million/year from the FAA and would miss out on hundreds of millions of additional dollars that would fund a future passenger terminal, structural pavement repairs, and annual maintenance.
- The airport would still be required to adhere to all FAA regulations and Grant Assurance obligations.
Airport Advisory Board (AAB) HISTORY
- In 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released an “Environmental Assessment” of potential changes at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport required to improve safety and receive federal funding.
- In response, the ASE Vision process facilitated a robust community review of the FAA alternatives and identified a comprehensive set of Common Ground Recommendations to make the airport safer, quieter, and cleaner.
- The creation of an Airport Advisory Board, a permanent board made up of citizen volunteers, was one of the key community safeguard recommendations that came out of the ASE Vision process.
- In 2021, the Airport Advisory Board (AAB) was created after approval from the Pitkin County Commissioners. The Common Ground Recommendations help guide the AAB on issues like the redevelopment of the airport and the airport’s broader future.
- In late 2022, the Airport Advisory Board began to break into groups to explore issues raised in the Common Ground Recommendations such as noise, airport air pollution, and safety.
Evolution of the Airfield
1946: The Aspen/Pitkin County Airport opened as a public-use landing strip, consisting of a log cabin terminal building and gravel runway.
1957: The Civil Aeronautics Administration and Pitkin County funded the original paved runway, which was 5,200 feet long by 60 feet wide.
1960s: The runway was lengthened to 6,000 feet and widened to 80 feet to improve safety and meet community demand for commercial air service.
1980s: The runway was expanded to 7,006 feet by 100 feet to safely accommodate changing aircraft technology.
2011: The runway was updated to its present size of 8,006 feet long by 100 feet wide to again safely accommodate changing aircraft technology.
2018: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released an Environmental Assessment (EA) of safety improvements required for ongoing federal funding.
2020: After a two-year public process, Pitkin County adopted the community’s Common Ground Recommendations” for a safer, cleaner and quieter airport.
2021: The Airport Advisory Board was created after approval from the Pitkin County Commissioners. The Common Ground Recommendations help guide the AAB on issues like the redevelopment of the airport and the airport’s broader future.
2023: An updated Airport Layout Plan (ALP) is being developed to comply with federal regulations
Airport Layout Plan (ALP) Process
An ALP is a high-level blueprint for the airport that depicts existing and anticipated future conditions. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires an up-to-date and approved ALP. The Aspen Airport’s existing ALP was approved in 2016. The ALP update focuses on the application of the Common Ground Recommendations.
- Ensures a safe airport design and efficient airport facility
- Allows for the protection of area airspace
- Assists the FAA in anticipating capital funding needs
- Helps the airport and FAA manage and enforce Federal Grant Assurance obligations
- Required to receive FAA funding for airport improvements
- Existing layout – today
- Future layout – planned
- Area airspace
- Passenger terminal, parking and roads
- Land use around the airport
- Airport property map
Draft Fleet Mix / Forecast / GHG Per Passenger
Anticipated Future Aircraft (Fleet Mix)
“…Airport growth cannot be “tuned” to any precise number, but the [aspirational] goal (.8% compound growth rate) represents a commitment to a reasonable level of managed growth.” – Common Ground Recommendations
The difference between the 0.8% growth rate in the Common Ground Recommendations and the 1.3% forecasted rate, which is expected to meet FAA requirements for accuracy, equates to an average of less than six passengers per day.
Aircraft Operations Forecast
The operations forecast shows the potential for fewer daily commercial flights in the future at ASE. As the next generation of cleaner, quieter, safer, and larger commercial aircraft come online, the average daily difference anticipated in the commercial forecast is less than one operation per day for both air carriers and air taxis.
For private planes (General Aviation), the average daily increase is forecasted to be less than one additional General Aviation operation per day. Total General Aviation operations at ASE are forecasted to remain relatively flat over the next 20 years, with an anticipated increase of just 0.75% annually.
Airport Facility Redevelopment Process Phasing
- New Commercial Passenger Terminal
- Reconfigure Terminal Roadway
- Intermodal Ground Transportation
- South Parking Lots
- North/South Commercial Apron and Adjoining Taxiway A
- Westside FBO Apron and Facilities
- Deicing Facility and Adjoining Taxiway A
- North Apron and Adjoining Taxiway A
- Relocation of FAA Air Traffic Control Tower
- Midfield Apron and Adjoining Taxiway A
- Airfield Pavement and Lighting – Runway 15‐33
Addressing Noise, a Core Community Goal
The Community values its quiet rural areas as well as less noise within the urban growth boundary where the airport is located.
Noise reduction at the airport is being tackled by a subcommittee of the Aspen Airport Advisory Board. The group is committed to doing everything possible to lower noise emissions, which was listed in the ASE visioning process as a core community goal. The goal is to reduce noise at the airport by 30 percent by 2030. The subcommittee is exploring:
- Adding multiple permanent noise monitoring stations
- Advising operators more frequently when they exceed Aspen Airport (ASE) noise standards. Currently, operators are advised once a year.
- Reporting data on noise issues quarterly to the public. Reports to include operators exceeding ASE’s threshold for noise and and operators meeting ASE’s standards.
- Continue enforcing ASE’s mandatory curfew and notifying operators who do not comply with with quiet hours, from 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM
- Continue refining the airport’s Fly Quiet Program, which encourages operators to operate as quietly as possible.
FAA Noise Policy
Weigh in on the FAA’s Noise Policy Review!
The FAA is seeking public comment on its noise policy as part of their ongoing commitment to address aircraft noise. The effort builds on their work to advance the scientific understanding of noise impacts as well as the development of analytical tools and technologies. In their review, the FAA is exploring:
- The FAA’s current use of Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) as the primary noise metric for assessing cumulative aircraft noise exposure.
- If and how alternative noise metrics may be used in lieu of or in addition to DNL to better inform agency decisions and improve the FAA’s disclosure of noise impacts.
- The community’s understanding of noise impacts and how to better manage and respond to community’s aviation noise concerns.
- Ways to improve communications on proposed noise-related agency actions.
- The findings from ongoing noise research, including the Neighborhood Environmental Survey and other research related to health impacts, speech interference, sleep interference, sleep disturbance, and economic impacts.
Addressing Safety, a Core Community Goal
Members of the Airport Advisory Board created a Safety Task Force to improve safety at the airport and in the air.
The mission of the Safety Task Force is to maximize safety and reduce aviation accidents and incidents at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport and associated airspace. The task force will formulate recommendations for consideration by the Airport Advisory Board and the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners.
- Pilot education and safety outreach
- Airspace design
- Winds reporting technology and methods
- Instrument approaches
- Departure procedures
- Safety coordinator
Addressing Air Pollution, a Core Community Goal
Pitkin County has long been committed to climate action and sustainability to preserve natural resources for current and future generations.
On environmental responsibility, the Common Ground Recommendations call for the Airport Advisory Board (AAB) to address:
- Air Pollution
- Carbon emissions – aspire to net carbon neutrality
- Sustainability – energy efficiency
The Airport Advisory Board subcommittee tackling airport air pollution aims to implement strategies to reduce emissions by at least 30% as soon as possible, but no later than 2030. This goal emerged from the Common Ground Recommendations.
As a starting point, AAB members worked to establish an accurate greenhouse gas emissions baseline in order to measure progress in future years. The baseline was adopted by the County Commissioners in early 2023. A baseline for local criteria pollutants is being developed but has not yet been implemented.