Navigational system problem grounds six Aspen flights

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenOctober 11, 2010
A damaged piece of navigational equipment canceled six Aspen flights over the weekend, and officials warned Monday that more disruptions for travelers could occur over the next couple of weeks.

Officials expect the Federal Aviation Administration's “localizer directional aid” system, which provides guidance to pilots when they are on a conventional instrument approach to the airport, will be repaired by Oct. 22.

“The existing antenna system has been in need of repair for some time,” FAA system engineer Bob Brown said. “This project has been one of the FAA’s top priorities. The planned facility shutdown is being done during a time that would have the least impact to the airport. Please be assured that we are doing everything possible to get the facility replaced as quickly as we can.”

Officials say there are two localizer antennae serving the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport: One is located on the south end of the runway and the other is located on top of Aspen Mountain. The repairs to the one on top of Aspen Mountain “required the antenna system to be shut down so new equipment can be installed,” they said.

The localizer system shut down Friday. Three United Express flights were canceled on Saturday, then three more on Sunday. Frontier did not report any cancellations.
Six Aspen flights were canceled over the weekend.



“It is unfortunate that some of our customers were inconvenienced over the weekend,” Aspen/Pitkin County Assistant Aviation Director of Operations Francey Jesson said. “The FAA chose the off-season to make these much-need repairs. Our top priority is a safe and efficient airport operation. We support the FAA in ensuring its navigational aids are in top condition at all times, and appreciate the effort they are taking now to get this critical work done as soon as possible.”

Ron Brewer, spokesman for SkyWest, which operates United Express flights to and from Aspen, said mostly clear weather today allowed for smooth flying and that no more flights had to be canceled as of press time. The localizer system is typically used by commercial pilots when the weather requires them to rely on it.

SkyWest planes are equipped with GPS and the airline will be petitioning the FAA to use GPS instead of the localizer system until it is repaired. Brewer was unsure whether the FAA would grant SkyWest's GPS request.

“We would obviously love them to,” he said. “It would alleviate the problem sooner than later, but we'll have to leave it up to the processes. As always, our first priority is the safety of our passengers.”


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