News and Insights

Lovins: Reframing prudent Aspen airport strategy

Amory Lovins, Guest Commentary, Aspen Daily News
July 12, 2023

This community will be shaped for generations by two seemingly arcane decisions scheduled for July 12 (today) and the coming weeks: 1) whether to adopt an airport growth and fleet-mix forecast calling for bigger commercial planes and allowing bigger private planes (including loud and dirty old 737s); and (2) whether to keep sending fixed-base operation (FBO) revenues to Texas, or keep $15-plus million a year reinvested in the Aspen airport and declare independence from federal grants mandating expansion.

Aspen Fly Right sent the Airport Advisory Board a trenchant technical assessment finding the airport forecast “unsound and unreliable” (Essay No. 15, Some members read it, but the advisory board didn’t discuss it before recommending the forecast to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners.

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Lovins: Official myths or honest dialogue?

Amory Lovins, Opinion, Aspen Times
June 6, 2023

Based upon faulty assumptions, flawed analysis, and staff misstatements, Pitkin County is on the verge of approving an Aspen/Pitkin County Airport forecast that calls for bigger, louder, and dirtier planes.

Is this what our valley wants?

On May 4, Aspen Fly Right posted an essay, “Fact-checking airport claims: Over half are false.” Of 27 common statements about Aspen’s airport, mainly official, 14 were false, two partly false, and only two true. We’ve seen no improvement since.

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Lovins: Straighten up and fly right

Amory Lovins, Guest Commentary, Aspen Daily News
June 4, 2023

Blessed with an honest and capable Board of County Commissioners, we citizens tend to assume that major public decisions rest on facts and reason. Not so on perhaps the most consequential choice in Pitkin County’s history.

The Airport Advisory Board voted 5-2 on May 18 to recommend that the BOCC send the Federal Aviation Administration a new forecast of how many of which airplanes will fly into Aspen. The advisory board trusted county staff to report facts accurately. Alas, their trust was misplaced.

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Runge: A team of rivals

Letter to the Editor, Aspen Times
May 22, 2023

Why was Amory Lovins not selected to be on the Airport Advisory Board? He applied to be on the board. He is imminently qualified. He is obviously willing to commit the time and energy on this important community airport expansion issue.

But like many of us who were publicly opposed to expanding our airport, especially based on the false premise that the CRJs were being phased out, the Pitkin County commissioners did not select any of the loud opposing voices to join the advisory board. In other words, they did not put together a team of rivals that would have had a much better chance of developing a community consensus around future airport decisions. Instead, airport opposition voices were constrained to editorials and letters to the editor.

I understand this lack of community consensus must be very frustrating to the existing members of the Airport Advisory Board, who have spent countless hours working on airport issues. Jackie Francis in particular has spent over two decades working on this issue, and this community owes her a debt of thanks that we can never repay.

Cliff Runge

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Ireland: Too soon to be right about airport

If we don’t want more growth, Amory Lovins may have the answer.

An hour or so of listening and review of Amory’s detailed response to the Federal Aviation Administration claims about the airport leaves one question unanswered: Do we, as a community want more growth?

That’s where the FAA wants us to go by building a bigger landing space that will basically allow 737s and other aircraft with passenger capacities much greater than those of the jets currently used by the commercial airlines serving Aspen.

Some community members think federal funding for terminal improvements requires us to change our minds and decide there really is some s–t we will eat, Dr. Thompson’s rolling in his afterlife notwithstanding.

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County isn’t exploring all of its airport alternatives


I have been a licensed private pilot for over 50 years, and have been a general aviation tenant at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport with my little single-engine Piper Dakota for 35 years.

Needless to say, I’ve been very frustrated with the huge influx of large private jets over the past several years, especially since the pandemic. I have also been frustrated with the neglect, lack of service and high fuel prices (with no more locals’ discounts) from the current fixed-base operator. As challenging as it might be, I would much rather see Pitkin County take over the operation of an FBO, obviously contracting out some of the specialized services. The idea of a huge corporation making millions of dollars from our local airport is sickening.

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ASE board to consider report on fleet mix, travel growth

People on both sides of the local debate on ASE expansion are being urged to attend Thursday’s meeting of the Airport Advisory Board, which could feature a vote on whether to accept a report that includes a forecast on aviation demand and commercial fleet mix.

The vote was postponed on April 20 because advisory board members wanted more time to study the actual report, the findings of which had been presented during last month’s meeting in an abbreviated format. The report has been deemed important because if it is accepted by the advisory board, it would be passed on as a recommendation to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners for approval to the updated Airport Layout Plan, or ALP, a document that is currently under development.

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Don’t be fooled: Pitkin County has a choice in airport’s future

On Tuesday, April 11, John Bauer from the Federal Aviation Administration participated in a Q&A session with the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners and the Airport Advisory Board. His remarks were not encouraging.

But looked at another way, perhaps they opened up new possibilities to control our airport’s future.

Currently the Aspen airport has 85 modifications from the national design standards for airports handling planes with wingspans up to 118 feet. Some of those exceptions make our airport safe only for wingspans up to 95 feet. Mr. Bauer said that the FAA wanted to eliminate about half of those modifications because the FAA doesn’t like restrictions or modifications. He said if Aspen does not increase the separation of the taxiway and runway from 320 feet to 400 feet, then the FAA will likely refuse any future discretionary grant funding.

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FAA official: ‘Changes needed’ at Aspen airport

At the start of Tuesday’s question-and-answer period, John Bauer warned the crowd that they weren’t going to like some of his comments.

Bauer, northwest region manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, spoke at the county administration building about matters pertaining to the proposed redevelopment of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport and his agency’s role within it. He was an invited guest at a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners and the Airport Advisory Board.

From the beginning, he stressed that the FAA is most interested in “safety and access.” To him, and his employer, an airside project that would create greater separation between the runway and the taxiway — and as a result, allow larger aircraft to use the airport — speaks to both of those interests.

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PitCo can, and should, run FBO

Letter to the Editor, Aspen Daily News
29 March 2023


We are writing to ask you to consider deeply the nature and purpose of local government in our Aspen community as it relates to future management of the fixed-base operator (FBO) that serves private planes using the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

Jackie Merrill and Jay Hughes

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Air pollutant study shows high concentration at Buttermilk during high-traffic hours

By Rich Allen, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
17 March 2023

On Thursday, local nonprofit Aspen Fly Right released a 33-page essay on air pollutants near the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, finding substantial upticks related to increased traffic along Highway 82 but not taking measurements on the nanoparticles that make up a large component of jet exhaust, urging further study on the matter.

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Aspen Fly Right holds meeting on airport’s future

14 March 2023

As the debate on the future of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport continues, local nonprofit Aspen Fly Right is urging a prioritization of new aviation technology before committing to expensive and potentially outdated changes.

In a community meeting Monday night at the Pitkin County Library, Amory Lovins, president of the nonprofit, suggested that inbound developments in electric and hybrid planes may pose a solution to many of the topics of discussion such as aircraft size, capacity, noise and public safety.

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An airport town hall hopes for a greener, smaller future for Aspen’s airside

By Josie Taris
13 March 2023

As Pitkin County grapples over the future of the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, a community group led by one of the valley’s most well-known thinkers stepped up to offer its analysis.

Aspen Fly Right is a nonprofit group whose mission is to offer scientific, actionable information relating to the airport. The group hosted an airport “Town Hall” in the Dunaway Community Room at the Pitkin County Library Monday evening, which drew a crowd of about 60 people.

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Pitkin County faces challenge reducing airport emissions


Pitkin County officials are facing the daunting challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the airport at a time when aircraft operations, particularly private ones, are on the rise.

The county commissioners and the Airport Advisory Board have set a goal of reducing airport emissions by 30% by 2030 from a baseline established by using the average of emissions from 2019 and 2020.

“Meanwhile, we have a challenge because fuel sales and related emissions are on the climb,” Airport Advisory Board member Rick Heede told the commissioners Tuesday. “We need to bend the curve to the downside by 2030.”

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Airport assumptions

Letter to the Editor, Aspen Daily News
23 January 2023


There has been a lot of discussion around the airport lately, although in reading the papers, you might have missed it. There seems to be a media drought around it locally. The Aspen Airport Board and the Pitkin BOCC seem to be stuck in the same debate they have historically proposed. We will “run out” of available airplanes suitable to fly into Aspen and provide the 17% of commercial flights that serve the bulk of our community.

Well, it’s 2023 and there is no end in sight for the use of these planes. SkyWest was forecasted to retire half of them by a year ago and all by 2025, but has actually retired zero. The county’s own top technical consultant on aviation disputes this. Thus, the most basic parameter underlying the push for bigger planes was misforecast by decades; the argument for reconfiguring the runway and taxiway to allow larger planes was based on inaccurate information. It brings into question what other information we might have gotten wrong and what other misinformation we are still hearing that will set our airport strategy and size. For information on this debate, go to

Susan Taylor
Woody Creek

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New nonprofit, Aspen Fly Right, to tout airport options

By Andre Salvail, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
18 December 2022

Renowned physicist and Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder Amory Lovins and others who are concerned about Pitkin County’s direction on local airport redevelopment have ­started a nonprofit with the goal of exploring alternate ideas and sharing them with the community.

The nonprofit is called Aspen Fly Right, and a website has been created ( The group began running full-page advertisements in Aspen’s daily newspapers late last week and plans to do so on a regular basis. The ads will explore different topics each week, Lovins said Saturday.

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ASE: Playing it safe, at the safety dance

By Andre Salvail, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
18 December 2022

Safety, safety, safety.

It’s a word that’s repeated often during nearly any discussion involving the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport and plans for its redevelopment, or airport operations in general.

Safety was a primary topic during the 2019-20 ASE Vision process that led to the formation and adoption of the lengthy list of ­Common Ground recommendations for the redevelopment of the airport. Often, various forms of data are used to support the perception — some say the conclusion — that general aviation operations at the airport are less safe than commercial airline activity. Private jet activity, according to airport officials, accounts for around 80% of overall operations at ASE while commercial flight operations make up about 20%.

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