Shane's Guide to Controlling Aspen Radar

With the recent uptick in the amount of IFATC Officers and the rising interest in challenging airports with special procedures, I thought it might be helpful to make an Aspen Radar controlling guide, explaining how I personally go about controlling there, managing the terrain and traffic, and working with a “Oneway In, Oneway Out” airport.

Note: To reiterate, this is my personal plan, not a set guideline on how to control at Aspen. There are many different ways that work, this is just what I think works best.

Topics Covered

1. Getting Started
2. The Plan
3. Traffic Waves
4. Additional Notes

Getting Started

Here are the following things that must be taken into consideration before opening at a place like Aspen, where there are many factors that need to be accounted for.

  • What are the MSAs for the surrounding terrain?

  • How will I efficiently move aircraft in and out of my airspace?

  • What actions will be taken if the airspace becomes busy/crowded?

  • How will I properly space between multiple aircraft in holds, and aircraft departing the airspace?

  • What are the winds (tend to be 20-30 knot tailwinds which majorly affect speeds and turns)?

The Plan

According to section 6.1.2 of the ATC Manual, “BEFORE opening, Controllers must ensure that they have a plan to manage the expected workload”, and for the airport we’re talking about, this is the most important step. As shown below, the plan I’ve created has been found to optimize all operations at Aspen.

Pro Tip: If the planning stage doesn’t go well, the session will not go well.

Item Meaning
Red Lines Fileable Approach
Black Lines Homemade Plan
Numbers MSAs & Ideal Altitudes
Orange Lines Entry Point Cones
Yellow Dot & Star Report Airport in Sight Point

The version of my plan may be found here.

By vectoring pilots down the HERGI » NALDY » WASLO line, you will be creating a more manageable airspace for yourself and an easier approach for the pilots. As a result, pilots will be at 3,000ft AAL about 10-12nm away, making the approach easier for them to fly. A video that demonstrates the use of this plan can be found here.

With the LOC/DME-E approach, pilots are forced to fly a 6.59-degree descent. Instead, these pilots are 2,000 feet lower by the end of the cone and are still able to see the airport.

Traffic Waves

Due to the special runway operations, Runway 15 for landing and Runway 33 for departures, Aspen’s traffic must be dealt with in waves. In the arrival wave, you focus entirely on bringing aircraft in, and in the departure wave, you solely focus on getting as many departures out as possible.

2020-12-02 (1)

As demonstrated by the picture, arrival waves tend to be a bit stressful, as you are directing many pilots off of their holds and into the approach path, using your plan. While the arrival phase commences, aircraft that have spawned in and are on the ground are forced to hold short until the arrival phase concludes. Therefore, delays are to be expected, especially when traffic picks up.

2020-12-02 (2)

Departure waves, as seen above, are when your airspace is most vulnerable to separation busts (less than 1,000 feet vertically or 3 nautical miles laterally), so awareness should be especially directed towards departures when they are being pushed out. When departures are being sent out, you’ll want to keep an eye on the following:

  • How fast are the aircraft climbing?

  • Is the aircraft in question climbing at a rate in which it will collide or bust with an arrival aircraft in a hold?

  • Are the aircraft’s speeds going to lead to poor separation?

  • Are the aircraft following the minimum 10-degree turn upon departure?

Additional Notes

  • Previously mentioned in the planning section, Aspen has a LOC/DME-E approach, not an ILS approach. Though there is a localizer that can be intercepted, I still strongly don’t advise you to use the localizer for approaches, nor service instrument approaches. I understand it may be confusing, as there is a red cone in-app, but if you were to look at the RWYS section of KASE, you’d see that it is a LOC (108500Mhz) approach, compared to an ILS (1__.__Mhz) approach as the standard.

  • Aspen. Gets. Busy. Be confident and ready when opening Aspen, especially if it’s fully staffed (Ground, Tower, ATIS, Approach, and Departure) because traffic will start flowing fast. If you have prior experience controlling moderate traffic levels with difficult terrain, great! Otherwise, think twice before opening, because it will bite back if you aren’t prepared. Can’t wait to fly in and receive exceptional service from you daredevil Officer out there!

If you would like to join IFATC, take a look at this topic! We love taking on new recruits and like to expand our ever-growing team. This was a really fun topic to make since I’d say that I’m somewhat known for controlling Aspen these days. Of course, feel free to reply with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have. Thank you, all!


Amazing guide, well done!

1 Like

Very well done, Shane! Detailed, specific, and descriptive. Oh, and great formatting…


You and @lucaviness are absolutely insane for willingly controlling radar here whenever possible. Awesome guide Shane!


Thanks, I appreciate that, only took about 5-6 hours, lmao.

Yeah… I wonder who helped me. 👀

Thanks, I always have a blast when I control it, and I plan to keep on doing it!


Very detailed! Thanks @Shane

1 Like

Niceeeeee! The KASE master has revealed his plan. Great work Shane


Amazing guide!! If I ever go mentally insane decide to try out Aspen radar, I’ll definitely use this guide to help me. In the mean time, I’ll stick to controlling local so that we can scream at each other about when to send departures …


Sounds like a plan to me. 😀


Thanks guys, means a lot!


Thanks for the guide Shane!

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Both of you control that airspace with precision, every time I see you guys in control that is my destination, usually from Denver. Keep up the good work 👍


This point is so true and is a point that needs to be given high importance , be it opening as Local or Radar. I remember opening KASE as Local with @lucaviness as Radar , it was my first session here and I was overwhelmed by the traffic we recieved, thereby making it absolutely necessary to communicate with your radar controller for planning Deps & Arrivals.
This is great guide indeed for those planning to control KASE . Thanks for this and Well done @Shane !


Absolutely! Aspen is not an easy feat, especially for those who take ground and tower. It requires a special type of thought process to understand how operations work when both sides of a runway are used, and it can really catch you off guard.

Most would be surprised to know that you pretty much can’t send out a departure unless the arriving traffic is about 12-13 nautical miles out, otherwise bad things will happen. Practice and communication is all it is, and it can get to be pretty routine after a while, but there’s always something new happening, and that goes for all ATC sessions.


Thanks for the cheat sheet for when I get Aspen for training Shane!

1 Like

Of course, hope to see you in IFATC soon enough!

Thanks, I appreciate it. I love it when people fly in from Denver, it’s nice and short, but still amazing.

Good luck if you do end up doing Aspen, this plan can be very useful to help manage traffic coming from multiple directions!


Thanks! This will help a lot of people, including myself. (I’ve always been too lazy to make an Aspen plan, to tell you the truth)

Just a question as I’m not sure, should this not be in #ground-school:community-tutorials?

Haha, yeah, it took a while to perfect, but it is a lot of fun when you get the hang of it!

I made the topic to show the way I personally control the airport, so I felt it’d be better suited in #atc, as opposed to a guide that I believe most should follow, though I would really appreciate if people did follow this way. :)


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