Another temporary setback for Aspen air travel

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenOctober 30, 2010

A damaged piece of navigational equipment that has grounded and delayed numerous flights in and out of Aspen still hasn't been repaired. For the second time, officials say they need more time.

The new localizer directional antenna was supposed to be up and running Oct. 22. Then the public was told it “may take a week longer than expected.” On Friday, the brass at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport guessed it could be the middle of next week before the antenna has been tested and operational.

The totality of the unanticipated setbacks is unclear but a press release from Pitkin County indicated that one of the problems officials have encountered is interference on top of Aspen Mountain — where the damaged localizer directional antenna is located — from a nearby Holy Cross power line. The power line has been relocated. The Federal Aviation Administration will test the signal this weekend.

The antenna, which guides pilots as they approach Aspen, has been in need of repair for some time, officials have said, but its repair came without any warning to the traveling public. The replacement of the navigational device began Oct. 8, suddenly canceling and delaying flights in and out of town.

“We continue to support the FAA in getting this critical work done,” Aspen/Pitkin County Airport Director Jim Elwood said. “We sincerely regret the inconvenience this has caused. We’re told it’s a number one priority for the FAA and has their full attention.”

Travelers report that the disruptions have been limited to United Express flights, usually when the weather or visibility is poor enough that pilots require the localizer's guidance. Frontier Airlines has avoided cancellations and delays because their planes have alternative navigational equipment.

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