June 15, 2017

Effective today, pilots departing from Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE) should request a VFR climb to 13,000 feet to avoid significant departure delays during peak operations at the Colorado airport.

In May, the FAA eliminated the WRAP procedure associated with opposite-direction operations at Aspen, where mountains surrounding the airport require traffic to depart and arrive from the same direction.

The elimination of the WRAP procedure results in a significant decrease of capacity at Aspen, from about 32 to 20 operations per hour. During times of high demand, the VFR departure will help reduce delays for both departing and arriving operations.

The FAA notified airport users of the procedure change via a system impact report, and the agency is working to mitigate loss of capacity and avoid excessive delays.

The near-term strategy to keep traffic moving while maintaining safe operations is for pilots to request a VFR climb to 13,000 feet. The pilot will then receive an IFR clearance with the published IFR departure, which will include the term “maintain VFR through 130, maintain 160.” This is expected to greatly accelerate departure times when there is inbound traffic.

Pilots must request this specific procedure. Controllers will not ask pilots whether they want the VFR climb, but they will approve it when requested.

“NBAA is working with the FAA to mitigate the impact of this operational change, as we recognize there are several popular summer events that result in heavy airport use, including this weekend’s Food & Wine Classic,” said Heidi Williams, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure. “We hope to mitigate the operational impact of this change and return traffic throughput to normal rates.”

Pilots may begin requesting the VFR departure climb to 13,000 feet starting today. NBAA strongly encourages all pilots flying into or out of Aspen to become familiar with the VFR departure option and request it from air traffic control when needed.