Note: This letter was originally addressed to “fellow Aspenites.” The authors asked that it be published as a letter to the editor.



We are writing to ask you to consider deeply the nature and purpose of local government in our Aspen community as it relates to future management of the fixed-base operator (FBO) that serves private planes using the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

Many of you know that we served during the ASE Vision process: Jackie on the ASE Vision Committee and Jay on the Airport Experience Committee. We entered the process to serve our community with open hearts and minds.

During the process we became knowledgeable about the many issues that confront our government as it seeks to make extremely long-term decisions about a critical part of our economic futures.

As the process unfolded it became clear that private aircraft usage of the airport is its core activity. Further, that activity entirely impacts the commercial operations. I well know, as on many occasions I was left in Denver when private traffic made my commercial landing either impossible or heavily delayed. Frankly, that’s a terrible way for our visitors to arrive and leave Aspen.

We advocate that the question of our county government taking back its delegated authority over the FBO be deeply discussed, and become the preferred alternative. We can see no other way for the deeply important issues of private aircraft use of the airport to be dealt with in the systemic way needed for the highest and best use of the airport for all users.

The issues are simply too big for a commercial operation based only on its economic success. For all of the questions the airport poses to our way of life, only local government can consider all of these multiple complexities of our airport and its future. Only local government can prioritize the competing interests of a system as complex as ours with the “public good” as its highest metric.

The reality that we can govern the airport’s development through the direct management of the FBO (by operating it or instructing a contractor how to operate it) and that we’d choose not to do so seems, frankly, incredible.

We understand the enormous changes occurring in aircraft development that our process has uncovered and the further evolutions to come. It seems wrong that we wouldn’t be in control of making decisions for our good that evolve along with these developments.

We have deep appreciation for our government and the way it has gone about finding the best systemic way forward for the airport. We believe that in our small mountain town we have some of the greatest minds and spirits in America today if not the globe! Why not ask those minds to join with our neighbors in local government to take on the responsibility of the FBO and run it for the public good? Why leave to a stranger corporation (with economic goals) the complex systemic issues we can best determine for ourselves?

Have we the courage to take this on?


Jackie Merrill and Jay Hughes