Thursday, June 05, 2014

Commercial prop plane returns to Aspen-Pitkin County Airport/Sardy Field (KASE), Aspen, Colorado

The Q-400 is back and offers more flexibility in taking off, landing

After a two-year hiatus, a commercial propeller plane is returning to Sardy Field, giving greater flexibility in landing and taking off during difficult weather circumstances.

The Q-400, operated by regional carrier Republic for United Airlines, was scheduled to touch down at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport today at 8:52 a.m. It has the ability to land from the south, circling over the Aspen golf course if wind conditions warrant.

The only other aircraft that flies into Aspen is the CRJ-700 and it does not have the ability to change its approach, which always is from the north.

Because of its design, the Q-400 also can carry more weight when there are high temperatures and thin mountain air, which prevents the CRJ-700 from taking off with a full load.

“This plane is virtually immune to the weight restrictions,” said Bill Tomcich, the local liaison to the airline industry and president of central reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass. “It is a very good aircraft for traveling between Aspen and Denver.”

United will use the aircraft for three of its nine daily flights from Denver to Aspen, Tomcich noted. The other six daily United flights from Denver will still be operated by SkyWest Airlines with the CRJ-700 aircraft.

The last time that aircraft flew into Aspen was when Frontier Airlines served Sardy Field. But the company discontinued service here in 2012. Republic bought Frontier out of bankruptcy in 2009 and continued to operate the fleet of Q-400s until Frontier discontinued use of that aircraft.

While it is a high-performing and comfortable aircraft, Frontier had no other routes where flying a Q-400 made sense.

United chose to go with the Q-400 to improve its overall reliability here, Tomcich said.

Also, starting today United is going to its full summer schedule, with the nine flights from Denver to Aspen, as well as daily nonstops from Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

And on June 11, American Airlines returns to Sardy Field with daily flights from Dallas and Los Angeles.


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