How does an updated ALP change things at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport?


*Definition of an Airport Layout Plan (ALP): An ALP is a scaled, graphical presentation of the existing and future airport facilities, their location on the airport campus, and pertinent clearance and dimensional information. The FAA uses information in the ALP to program future funding assistance and monitor the airport’s compliance with design standards and grant assurances. An ALP also allows the FAA to anticipate budgetary and procedural needs, and to protect the airspace required for facility or aircraft approach procedure improvements. An approved ALP is required by all airports in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NIPAS). NIPAS includes the 3,300 busiest public use airports in the United States.

The Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE) is currently operating under a plan approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that shifts its runway, not the taxiway, and lists ASE’s critical aircraft as To Be Determined, however, the FAA has stated the facility must be available to a “full” Airport Design Group (ADG)-III aircraft. A “full” ADG-III airport could accommodate aircraft at the larger end of the Design Group III spectrum. Without an updated plan – known as an Airport Layout Plan (ALP) – ASE’s existing plan remains the blueprint for ASE’s future.

The community realized the existing plan, approved by the FAA in 2016, needed an overhaul and met for nearly two years during an ASE Vision Process to pinpoint a set of community goals to inform an updated ALP. At the airport, staff worked with the FAA on an update both entities could support.

The updated ALP works to weave in aspirations from the vision process. In the update, the airfield shift happens on the taxiway, not the runway and the critical aircraft is an Airbus A220‐300, which is cleaner, quieter, and more comfortable for passengers than the jet commercial airlines most often use now at ASE. It also has more modern avionics, which would likely result in fewer flight delays and cancellations. In addition, the existing ALP calls for the development of a new 140,000 square foot passenger terminal; the updated ALP envisions a smaller terminal, between 75,000 and 90,000 square feet. This updated ALP represents a hard-fought outcome that meets both the safety and efficiency standards the FAA requires and preferences from the community.

When it comes to desired changes on the airfield at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, the community has little say – that’s the FAA’s realm and for good reason. They ensure safety standards are met and area airspace protected. The airfield, for all intents and purposes, is under the control of the FAA, which is why this updated ALP is important. It incorporates community desires and represents compromise. 

Dan Bartholomew, Airport Director


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