No-fly zone in force over Aspen
ASPEN – Private jet owners will have to find other ways to Aspen when the airport closes this spring – and the Pitkin County commissioners recently ruled out private helicopter charters.”The only helicopter operations are going to be emergency operations,” said Jim Elwood, director of aviation at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport.
The airport will be closed from April 9 to June 7, and some jet owners wanted to charter helicopters from airports in Rifle, Grand Junction or Eagle.Elwood and the Pitkin County commissioners who oversee the airport decided the limited space should be reserved for flight-for-life and search-and-rescue helicopters. “It’s not a public service,” Commissioner Jack Hatfield said. The high-end helicopter ride would serve only a few well-heeled visitors, he said.
“I was surprised,” said Doug Sheffer, owner of DBS Helicopters in Rifle. With the planned runway closure, Sheffer expected to run shuttles from Rifle to Aspen for private jet owners.DBS has been in business for 16 years running everything from search-and-rescue to scenic flights or dropping technicians on peaks to repair towers, and Sheffer saw the brief airport closure as a possible opportunity.Sheffer said he is frustrated at the loss of potential business – rides that would earn him $1,000 each trip.
A helicopter requires 40 square feet of landing area and a 50-foot clearance area. And flights could carry between four and six people, depending on luggage, he said.The airport control tower will remain open to warn any approaching aircraft or to guide in rescue helicopters.Jet owners who park on the apron at Sardy Field are free to leave their planes there during construction, Elwood said, but at 10 a.m. April 9, “It’ll be here for the duration.”