Aspen Pitkin Radar Procedures

Aspen.

The sad place of [beep] where [beep] goes to [beep] [beep] and [beep] becomes a [beep] misery of [beep]. But enough with my painful and emotional past regarding that airport.

Today, I need to outline some of the approach and departure procedures we use with Aspen, because a lot of people are confused by this. Holds are a huge part of the misconceptions we have here. Sure, we have our normal holds, but because of Aspen’s special operating nature, holds are also used to let departures out. This packet blast of info will cover what happens as someone works approach at this [beloved] airport.

Procedures Alert: (For those of us who do implement it)

  • Runway 15 arrivals
  • Runway 33 departures

Now, stay with me here, guys. I know this may be a little long to read through, but I promise it’s worth it. Not only are you helping us by knowing what to expect, but you will also get a free set of photographs autographed by Tyler, not to mention a basket of milk and cookies.

So, let’s get started. Or whatever. I’m going to try this whole “angsty teen” thing and see how people like it.

<-------Approach------->

Communication is everything. As soon as I hop on, I make it very clear to the person tagging tower that they need to convey whatever the heck they’re doing to me (get your mind out of the gutter).

Timing is Kwanzaa, by the way. Like Mr. Clockworth from Disney’s adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, I will fritz if timing goes wack-a-doodle. Seconds can make the difference between a head on collision and the next signing of the United Nations.

Third to cover is trust. Tower guy is my bro for the duration of the session. I won’t let anyone in until the tower controller specifically grants me permission. I won’t give anyone special privileges. Anyone who enters the hold first will exit the hold first. If you don’t like holding for fifteen minutes to a half hour waiting for a wave of departures to push out, then you can either divert (let me know) or exit the session. You want to fly direct to Aspen, you pay the price.

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////// Stacks //////

Aspen has a great VOR thingie. We call it Red Table. This area is the same used in real life to hold aircraft, so I use it as well. Aircraft flying in for radar vectors or the ILS (which is technically fake) will enter this point and wait their turn. If nobody else is coming, great, but if you decided to bring Tiny Box Tim as a flying partner or there’s a conga line of Frontier A318s waiting to take off, into the hold you go!

Here’s how it goes in terms of altitude when people enter the stack at Red Table:

  • FL130
  • FL140
  • FL150
  • FL160
  • FL170
  • FL180
  • FL190

Yeah, it seems like a lot, but remember that Denver has a high altitude. 7 people squeezed in there ain’t too shabby. Just two things to consider:

  1. 11-13K feet is usually the norm for the ILS clearance. Remember, the glidescope has been adjusted to something a bit higher than EGLC’s 5,500, so it isn’t impossible. If you think you can get away with a 3,000 feet AGL clearance, then enjoy petting and feeding Mark’s mountain goat.

  2. Don’t even think about going anywhere else than the altitude you are assigned. I will find your home address and give you a stern talking to. Then warmly cook you dinner.

It is imperative that no aircraft in the stack can pass through an altitude occupied by another. That’s why you’ll find yourself at one of those placeholders for a while. If you’ve been cleared lower after flying for some time, that means another aircraft below you has vacated or exited a block.

What I don’t think many people realize is the amount of mental concentration you have to have when working holds this way. I have to make sure no aircraft goes below or under their assigned altitude, enter at a certain height, which ones came in first, which ones came last, which ones violated their FL, etc. You would be literally keeping track of at least three different criteria for each aircraft, making 18+ things running around at once if six or more are holding.

But enough of my blather. This picture should demonstrate.

<-------Departures------->

As soon as your wheels lift off, the very first thing you should be thinking is to get the flying fluff out of the way. Arrivals are heading in straight for you, and I very much suspect nobody would like an investigation by the Infinite Flight NTSB to occur. Be prepared in advance and consider reading the charts detailing the departure routes out.

I know most of you will fall asleep or eventually get bored after trying to read the charts for the airport, so I’ll simplify it for you, and it’s also what I use, taken from the Pitkin Four departure plate.

Checklist:

  1. Fly runway heading @ 8,320 until hitting the ADINY fix.
  2. Turn left heading 288 and climb towards the LINDZ fix.
  3. Once hitting LINDZ, turn left heading 247 and be @ 16,000 by the GLENO fix.
  4. Request or be assigned cruising altitude; will be turned over or around inbound traffic, depending on destination.

Simple. Just a couple of turns and altitudes, and you’re good. And assuming nobody wants to read this either, here’s another picture to oversimplify the route. If you can’t get this one… I would consider reevaluating your life choices.

By the way, chances are you will be handed off to approach immediately once departing. That frequency has to work departures in coordination with arrivals, so they will point you off in the appropriate direction. I’d send to LINDZ and GLENO at the right altitudes to take the burden off of you guys. I’m literally doing all the work. Just follow.

DISCLAIMER: There are other ways, yes. Yes, there’s a more technical way of doing this departure, but I’m keeping it simple for you guys. We all know the technicalities based around real world approaches that will confuse many people. Keep it compact. Same way with our transition rules.

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So… yeah. Hope you guys read this and enjoyed my angsty teen performance. I’m rapidly aging and stuff (got you there!) Laters.

76 Likes

Well now I’m tempted…

17 Likes

Good stuff but my head hurts. Since I can’t use an Emogi in here , I will just go grab me a beer.

11 Likes

Great tutorial. I definitely want to try the approach/departure now.

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why are you giving tom the credit when it wasnt him who posted this

I realized that. That’s why I updated my comment.

@JoshFly8 you are hilarious 😂. Very informative tutorial, thank you. I’ve actually never flown to KASE so I have no idea how this must be.

2 Likes

How can you live without Aspen?! :(

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I have Aspen just never flown there

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Love this one. The problem in IF is the impatience of pilots. I hope some pilots actually realize how we radar controllers try to avoid holds as LONG AS POSSIBLE. It’s really not something we like to do…

4 Likes

Good post Joshua. Should be required reading before entering the TFR.

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Joshua did you have a bad time at ASE again

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Now I’m craving a flight to Aspen in the Citation. I’ve also never been put into a hold in IF before so I want to try that too.

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Why, yes I did. Thanks for asking, Darude. :D

So many people thought it would be a brilliant idea to skip the hold, ignore me, and try to get in. Unfortunately for them, Mr. Tower could smell it coming from a literal mile away and sent them back to me. Forced them up and back into the hold for another 20 minutes. Still surprised nobody tried to complain; probably because they knew they were wrong.

And if you support it, give a like. Tom did. Tom is smart. Be like Tom. :)

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@SkyHighGuys: Reread the departure plate above, please. You made many people sad tonight. :(

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Thanks for the heads up. I’ll have my pilots AND most definitely myself read up on these. I apologize for my mistakes tonight and thanks for kindly asking me to read these.

3 Likes

Great information, thanks. Hope i can experience some of experts aspen operations.

@JoshFly8 this is rather humorous to read and I love the tone you have set for the thread. Still very informative and a must-read for everyone.

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I love this, even though you made it sound just a little complicated, lol. But hey, I’ll go for whatever gives me the most realism, and this looks like the way to go. Can’t wait until Denver is active again so I can fly into KASE with my trusty A318 / CCX. 👌🏾

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I agree. Can’t wait to fly into Aspen or out of Aspen now. I’ve reviewed all of this and I think I understand it enough to give it another shot. Let’s open Denver!