Regional Issues - Midwest Region

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Pilots Encouraged to Utilize VFR Climb Option to Expedite Aspen Departures

Aug. 22, 2017

Following a request from NBAA, the FAA recently published a letter to airmen outlining a VFR climb procedure at Colorado's Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE) that may enable business aircraft crews to avoid delays following suspension of the "Wrap" departure procedure from ASE’s Runway 33 earlier this year.

While ATC will not ask pilots to depart under VFR climb, crews may request the procedure.

"Aircrews can expect ASE ATCT to approve such a request when conditions and operations permit," according to the letter to airmen. "During a VFR climb, aircrews are responsible for terrain and cloud avoidance and expected to fly the ground track of the LINDZ8 SID [standard instrument departure] or as directed by ATC through 13,000 feet msl."

View the letter to airmen. (PDF)

Crews requesting the VFR climb may be able to depart sooner than aircraft awaiting their filed IFR departure clearance, particularly under peak traffic conditions. The filed IFR flight plan will be activated once the aircraft climbs through 13,000 feet.

"We appreciate the FAA's prompt issuance of this letter to airmen to clarify the recommended departure procedure," said Heidi Williams, NBAA's director of air traffic services and infrastructure. "It provides a good explanation of the issue and what pilots should expect when requesting the VFR climb, and we hope this leads to a higher number of operators utilizing this procedure."

The FAA suspended Wrap in May to review the procedure, which immediately led to a 40 percent drop in operational capacity at the busy airfield. Williams emphasized that NBAA continues to work with stakeholders to restore the normal flow of business aircraft operations at the airport.

"This certainly isn't the final word on Aspen," concluded Williams. "As we await the resumption of Wrap or a similar procedure to restore normal operational flow at ASE, NBAA strongly recommends that pilots utilize the VFR climb procedure whenever it is safe to do so."