Saturday, October 12, 2013

Second site for private planes proposed for Aspen-Pitkin County Airport/Sardy Field (KASE), Colorado

A Texas company that offers private-plane services across the United States and in Canada and Europe has its eyes set on the Aspen Airport.

Landmark Aviation recently submitted an application to Pitkin County to build what would be the airport’s second fixed-base operation (FBO), said county manager Jon Peacock on Friday.

FBOs typically offer fueling, hangar and tie-down space, repairs, car rentals and other amenities for private planes. Atlantic Aviation currently provides FBO services at Sardy Field.

In receiving $64 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration over the past decade, Pitkin County and airport officials represented an area on the facility’s west side as reserved for future aeronautical use.

An FAA official said last year that 39 grants are attached to that money, meaning the county must use the land as it was designated in the grant applications.

One of the FAA’s “grant assurances” also mandate that the airport provide a level playing field when it comes to FBOs, Peacock said.

“The idea is that we don’t establish monopolies,” he said.

As such, Landmark Aviation’s application will trigger a request-for-proposal process that could start in April or May.

During the development of the county’s 20-year airport master plan last year, multiple FBOs expressed interest in Sardy Field.

“Aspen is looking like an attractive prospect for a second FBO,” Peacock said.

The site would be just downvalley from the airport’s operations building on Owl Creek Road.

Among the uses set aside for the airport’s west side in the master plan are 22,000 square feet for 30 tie-down spaces for airplanes. The new FBO also will require a new taxiway and other infrastructure.

During the master plan process, Pitkin County commissioner Rachel Richards said she was worried about how a second FBO will affect Owl Creek and potentially increase traffic on the namesake road. She also noted that structures from an old ranch near the new FBO may qualify for the National Register of Historic Places.

Peacock said that whichever operator is chosen, their plan will have to undergo a lengthy environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“So will that take 18 months to complete?” he said. “Absolutely, if not longer.”

That could push the start of construction to sometime in 2016. The FAA will have oversight of the new taxiway, setbacks and other aspects related to runway safety.

Also, as part of the master plan — which the FAA approved a month or so ago — a citizen task force is working with the county on design guidelines for the facility, a process aimed at ensuring that future development adheres to community values.

Peacock said that process will have to be complete before the county issues the request for proposals (RFP). The design guidelines are expected to be finished in February.

“It’d be very, very difficult for us to put together a good RFP without having those guidelines in place,” Peacock said. The design standards “would let FBO know what they’re bidding on.”

Once an operator is selected, they will submit a plan that will undergo a “locations and extent” review, which will allow the county planning commission to offer its thoughts.

The board of county commissioners will not be involved in the selection of the FBO because it is the final body to which a vendor can appeal decisions. The selection will be made by an RFP team with various experts that will review and score proposals. But commissioners will have the final say because they will approve the lease for the new FBO.

The successful FBO may not be chosen until next fall. The company will have to prove its capability to implement the proposal, the benefits to the airport and compliance with the master plan and design standards, among other criteria.

“It’s going to be a very complicated process,” Peacock said of selecting the operator.

Houston-based Landmark Aviation has 53 FBOs and another nine sites that offer maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft. It is a subsidiary of the Carlyle Group, a $170 billion asset management company. The company’s vice president of marketing was not available for comment Friday.

The county is not releasing the application because Peacock said it contains some of the company’s trademark secrets and other proprietary information.

Messages left with officials at Atlantic Aviation, which has 11 years left on its lease with the county, were not returned.


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