Vail Valley not on most challenging airports list |

Vail Valley not on most challenging airports list

Pete Fowler
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” Eagle County Regional ” the airport that serves Colorado’s Vail Valley ” is not as challenging as place to fly in and out of as some of its neighbors.

The Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport has made a “top 10 challenging mountain airports” list in a national aircraft association magazine. Aspen’s airport is also on the list.

Telluride’s airport is first on the list. Aspen’s is second. The Leadville airport is third and Glenwood Springs is fourth.

The list appeared in the April edition of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association magazine in a cover story titled “Mountain Flying Adventure: Epic proportions,” a feature on backcountry flying ” an increasingly popular discipline among general aviation pilots, the magazine says.

The list was created through surveys of association members about the most challenging airports they’ve flown into that are open to public use and have paved runways. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association says it’s the world’s largest aviation association, with 415,000 members.

The Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport, at 5,916 feet in elevation, “comes with lots of challenges,” according to the magazine. “The runway is 3,300 feet long with trees at each end. A narrow and twisting canyon guards it, and like so many Colorado mountain airports, weather and winds sometimes demand one-way runway operations.”

“Glenwood Springs’ runway is 3,300 feet long by 50 feet wide, and the airport can often have density altitudes of 9,000 to 10,000 feet,” the magazine reported.

The article also mentions the challenging approach at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, which has steep climb requirements. The 7,000-foot long runway, at 7,820 feet in elevation, requires pilots to begin descent and configure for landing before the airport is visible.

Glenwood Springs Airport Manager Dick Weinberg, a former FAA employee with more than 4,000 hours of flying experience, is mentioned in the article.

“I don’t know how they picked the airports out, either scenically, or tough airports to get in and out of,” Weinberg said. “They called me up and said, ‘we’re doing an article on mountain flying.’ They wanted to talk to me and include Glenwood Springs. I said, ‘Sure, by all means, it’s good for the airport.'”

Weinberg added, “Glenwood Springs is definitely a mountain airport that’s respected by pilots. They don’t just come into Glenwood. You have to plan first if you’ve never been in here before. It’s not an easy airport because it’s a short runway. It’s a narrow runway. The altitude is high here.”

But, he said, anyone who knows what they’re doing won’t get into trouble.

The economic downturn appears to have taken its toll on local aviation, Weinberg added.

“Flying is down significantly in the last nine months to a year,” he said.

Mention in the magazine could generate some additional visitors, Weinberg said.

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