New antenna system sees Aspen airport return to normal
When visibility was poor, an untold number of United Express flights had to be canceled as the FAA worked to install a localizer directional aid at the top of the Buckhorn ski run on Aspen Mountain. The equipment works in tandem with other navigational aids at the Aspen airport and allows pilots to execute missed approaches, enabling them to circle back for another landing attempt.
Work on a new 14-antenna array on top of Buckhorn began Oct. 8 was supposed to have been installed by Oct. 21, but interference from a nearby power line and snowcats continually delayed the project. Holy Cross Energy relocated the power line, which feeds the Silver Queen Gondola and Aspen Skiing Company on-mountain buildings, on Oct. 29, which improved the signal integrity but was not enough to meet all of the FAA's safety standards and the localizer (LDA) was not allowed to return to service.
“After reviewing the initial flight inspection results, a decision was also made to install a ‘counterpoise extension’ (shield) on the antenna platform. This serves as a shield to prevent the antenna system from being adversely affected by a signal reflection off the snowcats grooming the ski run below the antenna,” a press release said. “It also shields the antenna from the power line as it crosses at the bottom of the ski run below the antenna. The installation of this extension was completed on Nov. 1.”
But work on the $1.5 million was not done.
“The new LDA equipment is much more sensitive than the equipment it is replacing. This allows for a more precise broadcast signal and improved guidance to the pilots using the system,” the release said. “This signal can also be influenced by many different factors but most significantly by terrain. The Aspen LDA sits on a very challenging site for terrain due to the extreme drop off directly in front of the antenna array and the rising ground to west. Therefore a decision was made to modify the antennae to a configuration similar to the original system it was replacing. This allows for the more forgiving signal pattern from the previous type of antenna array to be combined with the new state of the art electronics.”
Bob Kitson, an engineering manager for the FAA, sent out an e-mail Sunday afternoon announcing that the instrument landing system is now operational and activity is returning to normal at the airport.
“The FAA greatly appreciates the community's patience and understanding,” he wrote.
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