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Aspen Operations

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Well-known member
Sep 20, 2004
I have been appointed by my company to develop some guidelines regarding operations in and out of Aspen (KASE). I would appreciate any suggestions or recommendations above the prescribed minimums people use or have used in the past to safely operate jet and turbo-props in such a challenging environment. Please PM me with any info.
-We NEVER circle to land on Runway 33, but I know some people do in turboprops.
-We NEVER operate in or out at night.
-We ALWAYS depart 33, if tailwind is too much we park.​
-I've never been able to make the climb gradient coming out of KASE so we use the "OTHER" category takeoff mins as our required weather for departure.
-We ALWAYS include escape plan in TO brief for engine failure. Basic plan is fly up the right (east) side of the valley and turn left (west) at the valley exit and fly I-70 to KRIL.​

Check your PM for specifics on approach that I don't want to cut and paste from SOP over open forum.​
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Consider the conservative recommendations that Guido advised. We don't go in or out after sunset, but we've lowered our weather minima a bit. If your company has the financial resources, plan to train in the sim specifically for ASE. Fly approach scenarios, the missed approach procedures, both two and single engine. Fly V1 cuts in the sim at the max weight/temps that will let you get off the runway. Do this first VFR, then IFR. Again, if you have the financial resources seriously consider contracting with APG for their data and Special Departure Procedures.
JS, what Guido said! Those are all excellent SOP's. And while I don't go into that airport any more, when we did operate there, we strictly adhered to the same.

I would also suggest you post over on the regional board. Skywest operates a large CRJ in there daily, and Mesa and Frontier are going in there with Dash-8's also.

In those operations, that airport is a "Special", requiring much more strict airport-specific training, minimum flight crew requirements, and a few other requirements.

It was a requirement that we received simulator airport-specific training for the Specials within a certain time of operating into those airports when I was doing the airline thing. IMO, it should be mandated for the 91/135 folks also.

The airlines might have a different approach to 15 than non-airline. I can't remember, but you'll get plenty of responses from the regional side.

Oh, and once you get your SOP's developed, head to the sim and train them, then head to airport and train them again before you start flying folks in and out of there. A hand-full of validation flights into that airport should be the minimum for your flight crews.
Spend the money and buy the APG airport analysis...it's not expensive (well under $100) and you could easily save that by saving a tech stop with the higher weights the analysis & special DP allows you to lift out of there.
We mostly follow what Guido said, with the exception of going out and flying down the valley. I understand the reasoning behind it, but how do you know what the the weather is down that valley? You could go from a bad situation to one much worse if there is a snow storm down there.

We have a RTB policy in the event of an engine failure. If we can average a VFR climb gradient (1.6%) plus the AFM turn penalty on the Citation (1.2%) the PIC may elect to climb to the top of the ODP and divert to another airport or RTB to ASE. If the aircraft can only make the graident to the traffic patteren, then we are committed to return to ASE if we lose an engine. Also, if the second method is used, you have to ensure the tail wind isn't to great to land on 15 and that you also have the runway length to land. If either is a problem, then we wait for the wind to calm down or reduce weight.

To perform the above procedure, it must be VFR with no ceiling below the bottom of the ODP.

I've practiced a V1 cut many times in the sim with only the performace to make the VFR climb graident to pattern altitude. You're holding V2 for the entire time. Make about a 50 degree turn to the right then tear drop the turn back to the left and it works out every time. Knock on wood that I never have to do it for real, but it works like a champ in the sim.
I am an very experienced Aspen pilot. I have operated in and out of Aspen starting with a Jet Commander in the late 1970s when there were no approaches, except for the then two scheduled airlines that operated back then, and the there were no night arrivals or departures, except again for the 121 operators.

The last aircraft I operated in and out of ASE was the Falcon 900EX and Falcon 50EX. To be honest, those were the only two aircraft I truly felt comfortable flying in and out of there. Other two aircraft I have flown in and out of ASE were Westwinds Is & IIs and a Sabre 65.

What type of aircraft are you planning to operate in and out of ASE? That has a lot to do with establishing the proper guidelines for your operations manual. Simple put, there are things you can do in the Falcon 50/900, G-IV/V etc. that you cannot do with lesser performing aircraft. Hot and high performance is critical.

I'll not go into 'There I was stories' except to say that there were days I was the only aircraft to land in ASE and there were days I believe I was the only aircraft not able to land in ASE.

A few recommendations no matter the type of equiptment.

Never push fuel into ASE, especially in the winter. All ways have enough fuel to shoot a couple of approaches to ASE, hold for a while and still have enough fuel to divert to either Grand Junction or Pueblo.

Never trust a report of 'Fair' braking conditions during the winter, always assume the braking is at best poor. If your ops specs prohibit landing with poor braking conditions, you might consider going somewhere else.

The driving time from Rifle and Vail to Aspen is longer than anyone will admit, plan to tell your passengers it will be at least two and half hours, if the road conditions are good.

Never predicate landings or takeoffs on reported weather. Remember, the weather that is reported is only for the actually conditions at the surface of the airport, not down valley. I have landed in ASE many times when the weather had been reported below VFR or marginal and never flew through a cloud. There have been a few occasions when the weather was reported clear and five miles visibility and I could not land because I could descend from over a cloud/fog bank that ended just short of the runway. So unless you know for a fact that no one is getting in, it is always worth taking a look.

I have landed on runway 33 in the Jet Commander (which was fun, not) the Westwind which was no problem and the Falcon 50EX which again was no problem. As for runway 15 takeoffs, the aircraft must be approved by the airport manager, with the Falcon 50, 50EX and 900EX there is no problem as long as you are relatively light.

There are new 'special training and approval only' approaches into ASE, again the aircraft performance is critical for approval. Check with Flight Safety for details.

You can safely operate in and out of Aspen forever just as long as you never push it. As you will be new to ASE operations make some hard limits and then as you gain experience flying in and out of Aspen you can modify them.

As for the ground handling at the FBO. During non peak seasons don't worry about a thing. The linemen at the FBO are some of the best I have encountered anywhere in the world. During high season, both summer and winter, I highly and in fact cannot recommend this more strongly, do every thing you can to tanker fuel in to ASE so you will not have to buy fuel there. The FBO gets slammed during the busy seasons, they do a great job, but they can only fuel so many aircraft in any given time period. So if you do have to upload fuel during the peak seasons, just be patient.

Now personally, if I never fly back into Aspen it will be too soon. I ended up hating the place because I was there so damn much.
we landed on 33 because of excessive tailwind component, and I didn't think it was that bad. Weather was good, so that may have helped in my opinion. This was in a Learjet 45 which circles with full flap configuration normally.
Bump for APG

Bump for APG.

It only cost us $75.00 a month per airframe. It will give you the weights and procedures that you need to avoid a careless and reckless charge from the FAA. Most of APG's procedures now follow the SID. The difference is that APG bases terrain clearance on TERPS criteria VS Faa Terrain separation criteria. This requires you to fly the proceedure (like I said, normally the SD) precisely (not a problem on most modern cockpits), but allows the corridor you fly in to be narrower, that is they only have to account for obstructions in a more narrowly defined corridor, so often times the altitude can be lower, which may or may not meet your OEI 2nd segment climb capability. Then, you reduce your aircraft weight to meet that gradient.

Bottom line is that out of KASE most two engine airplanes are going to be restricted to waiting for the weather minima to get up to the SID Obstacle departure criteria mins (as of right now, not legally required for FAR 91 ops, but soon to be addresses in a new AC coming out 91-20??). Another thing to keep in mind (and it is addressed in the APG performance figures) is that you will take a HUGE weight penalty for having to use engine anti-ice and or wing anti-ice.

What APG might do for you, is allow you to take off at a reduced weight and make a fuel stop. That at least gets you out of Aspen safely and legally and allows you to present a valid case to any FAA inspector watching airplanes takeoff when the ceiling is low. If your passengers do not want to make the fuel stop, you could always hop over to APA and wait for them to arrive by Rocky Mountain Limo there.

IMHO The real solution for anyone wanting to regularly operate out of KASE is to send me to Falcon 7X school.:pimp:
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I'm going to preface this with the fact I've never operated out of ASE, and my experience around the rocks is limited...so please, correct me if I'm wrong anywhere.

SID and ODP climb gradients are based on all engines operating, and extrapolating second-segment climb data to the top of the SID doesn't really work...despite what so many schoolhouse instructors teach.

The APG data & corresponding special departure procedure will show you the maximum weight you can lift off a given runway at a given temperature (and runway conditions, AI on/off, etc). This weight will be higher than the weight you'd find by extrapolating OEI 2nd segment climb to the top of the ODP. I understand this weight is higher because of the narrower terrain clearance APG uses in their DP, which could (does?) reduce the gradient required to maintain obstruction clearance.

If you can meet the climb gradient of the ODP all engines operating, you'd be legal...but if you bag one then you need to have an suitable out to ensure you don't end up in cumulogranite (and to avoid that whole 91.13 thing previously mentioned). If you can see the tops of the terrain you can maintain separation visually, but if IMC the APG departure procedure is a legal means by which one can maintain obstacle clearance in a OEI situation.

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