Airport Runway Extension Project Underway

1,000 feet of runway to be added for take offs only by next ski season


(Aspen, CO) Construction of the first phase of the long-awaited Aspen/Pitkin County Airport runway extension began Monday, April 4.  The first phase of the project includes installation of the new City of Aspen domestic water connection to the Buttermilk Metro District (BMD) water system, removal of the existing BMD water wells south of the runway, and relocation of some utilities. Nearly all of the first phase of the project will occur between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays through June 20 and will not impact airport operations.


“We’re excited to be starting work on this project,” said Assistant Director of Aviation, David Ulane. “The good news is, the work can occur while the airport remains open and will have minimal impact on our air service as a whole,” Ulane said.


The only anticipated impact to airport passenger service will be during two, three-day periods this fall. In order to maintain an FAA-mandated 1,000 foot safety area for construction activities, the runway will be temporarily shortened from 7,000 to 6,500 feet. From Sept. 13-15 and Oct. 4-6, the runway will be reduced to 6,000 feet. This shortening is accomplished by temporarily re-painting the runway markings to reflect a shorter available length and does not require the removal of existing runway pavement. To ensure passenger safety while the runway is 6,000 feet, SkyWest Airlines will not operate direct flights between Denver and Aspen. Frontier Airlines and most of the general aviation aircraft are expected to continue operating normally during this time, although some flights may be subject to weight restrictions.


“This is purely a safety measure required by the FAA,” Ulane said.” “We have coordinated this phase of the project with all of the parties who utilize the airport and look forward to continued collaboration so that any impact to passengers will be minimal,” Ulane said.


The September-October phase of the project will include relocation of the FAA’s localizer antenna situated on the south (Aspen) end of the runway.  This is not the same localizer antenna that the FAA replaced with some difficulty on Aspen Mountain last fall. .


“We expect this relocation to go much more smoothly because we’ve had more time to plan ahead, and the relocation will be closely supervised by the airport’s project manager,” Ulane said. “This localizer is at the end of our runway, not on a mountaintop, and relocating it will be much more straightforward.” 


The runway extension project is expected to be completed in early November 2011, in time for the 2011/2012 ski season. The lengthened runway total project cost is $15.4 million, of which the FAA is funding 82% ($12.6 million), the Colorado Division of Aeronautics is funding 3% ($447,000), and the airport enterprise fund reserves are funding the local share of 15% ($2.4 million). The 1,000 foot extension at the south (Aspen) end of the runway will allow aircraft to take off from the airport with additional passenger and fuel loads, and fly to more distant destinations. Aircraft have historically operated at less than full capacity in Aspen, especially in summer when higher temperatures limit aircraft performance at the airport’s high elevation.  The runway extension does not alter the airport’s existing 95 foot wingspan or 100,000 pound landing weight limitations.


Progress updates will be available throughout the project’s duration on the airport’s planning website at

Posted on Tuesday, April 05, 2011