Questions and Answers

What is the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport vision process (ASE Vision) and why is it needed?

  • The ASE Vision process is needed to determine how the airport should be modernized to accommodate the community’s air service needs and keep up with changes in the air service industry and reflect the character and values of the community.
  • The existing facilities at ASE are out of date and out of step with the global evolution of the air service industry. The existing ASE facilities do not meet:
    • Federal operations, safety, or security requirements
    • Sustainable communities’ strategies
    • Customer service expectations
    • Existing or future requirements for commercial service operations
    • Systems technology requirements
    • Provide a customer experience that reflects the character or sense of place of the community
  • The air service industry and hospitality industries are constantly changing, and Federal requirements are driving changes and improvements at airports around the world.

Is the airport being expanded?

  • There are no plans or land available to increase the size of the existing airport site.
  • There are numerous important airport functions and facilities competing for the same limited space. All the existing facilities and functions are undersized for the current (let alone future) air service demand.
  • Some facilities or functions may be prioritized to get additional space, but it will likely be at the expense of some other facility or function. A key goal of the ASE Vision Process will be to develop a community and airport stakeholder-based prioritization and balance for these facilities and functions so that use of the limited available space can be optimized.
  • Given the limited space available, this is a primary opportunity for the community to set the buildout development for the airport.

Will this effort allow larger aircraft to operate at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport?

  • The airport currently has a restriction that prohibits aircraft with a wingspan greater than 95 feet and weighs more than 100,000 lbs.
  • The Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared for airport improvements allows for a stronger runway, and one in which the separation between the runway and taxiway would be expanded 80 feet.
  • These combined improvements would allow larger aircraft to operate at the Airport; however, the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport is embarking on the ASE Vision process specifically to ensure the community is able to weigh in on these options and help the county determine the future of the airport.

What do “Aircraft Design Group” or “ADG” classifications mean?

  • The FAA uses an Aircraft Design Group (ADG) classification to group airplanes based on wingspan or tail height. The Aspen/Pitkin County Airport currently has an ADG III classification with a number of non-standard conditions that the FAA has identified for needed updates.
  • The ADG III group is defined as aircraft with wingspans not exceeding 118 feet, or tail height not exceeding 45 feet. However, given the non-standard conditions at ASE, there are currently restrictions in place not allowing aircraft with a wingspan greater than 95 feet.
  • Should the County decide not to make the necessary improvements to more fully comply with ADG III, the FAA may decide to downgrade the airport to ADG II, which allows aircraft with wingspans not exceeding 79’.

How is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) involved? What role does the FAA play?

  • Federal requirements for operations, safety, and security; aircraft technology and efficiency improvements, customer service and amenity expectations, airport systems and technology improvements, and increasing sustainability goals are driving changes and improvements at airports around the world.
  • The FAA is responsible for aircraft and airport safety and efficiency. For the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, that means they have a role in ensuring the appropriate design standards are met. They also serve a role with all airports in making funding (which comes from the Aviation Trust Fund) available for the airport to make improvements.

Who ultimately approves decisions for the future of the airport guided by this vision?

  • Pitkin County, whose decision-making body is its Board of County Commissioners, is the project proponent and the airport owner, and the FAA is the federal agency with oversight of the airport, specifically, compliance with technical requirements and safety regulations.
  • Forming community advisory groups is a key function of the airport vision. The process will convene community collaboration across a diverse and inclusive cross-section of interests to provide feedback, share project information, and ultimately inform Pitkin County’s decision-making process.
  • Ultimately, Pitkin County makes decisions about airport and county funding, including any improvement projects.

What is the difference between the current airport vision process and previous public involvement processes?

  • The approved EA and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in 2018, is the documentation of a Federal decision-making process. It’s public involvement process followed U.S Department of Transportation and FAA guidance/precedent for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
  • The EA disclosed the expected effects of specific improvement projects on a defined set of environmental factors.
  • Going forward, the ASE Vision Process will be a collaborative dialogue with the community and other airport stakeholders to establish what the future of the airport should be.
  • The final preferred ASE Vision will then be used to guide future renewal and modernization of the airport.

How can I get involved and how will my feedback be integrated during this phase of the project?

  • Community advisory groups, listening workshops, surveys and other engagement opportunities will take place throughout the ASE Vision process.
  • Sign-up to receive project updates, including information about upcoming involvement opportunities, at You can also call/text 970-309-2156 or email with questions or comments.

What is the difference between the conceptual designs of the terminal from the previous planning process and what is happening now?

  • The previous processes sought public input on some preliminary terminal concepts to establish the aesthetic theme, general layout, and quality of space preferences of the community.  The preliminary concepts were needed to support preparation of the Airport Master Plan update and Environmental Assessment documents, but were not intended to be actual final designs or an approval to move forward with the project. 
  • The ASE Vision process will seek to determine what airport improvements should be moved forward into implementation and will include the opportunity to revisit and supplement the previously identified terminal facility aesthetic preferences.

ASE Performance Evaluation Technical Memorandum [PDF]

ASE Vision Process Airport Advisory Groups Questions and Answers to Date (Updated July 15, 2019) [PDF]

ASE Public Comments February – October 2019 (PDF)


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