On December 29, 1987, a private turbine airplane approached the Telluride Regional Airport runway and crashed at dusk. Six were injured, two seriously. I mention this episode because of my direct management of those injured and my concern that extending hours at our airport is a bad idea. Allowing night flights opens our skies to highly experienced pilots as well as novices. Mountain flying is inherently dangerous and requires skill. Night landings require additional expertise. Thirty-one night casualties have occurred at the Aspen/Vail airports over the last 30 years. Safety is the issue here and it is apparently being glossed over by the airport authority.
If a few concerned people had not unveiled the airport authority’s intentions to allow night flights, it is likely planes would be landing at night now with no public input. Citizens opposed to night flights are treated by the TRAA as bothersome NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard folks). In a small community everyone is potentially a NIMBY. Will there be NIMBYs in Norwood, home of the holding pattern for approaching planes? Do we want jet noise, fumes, and harsh lights piercing our communities at night? I don’t. I also do not want to be forced by a non-elected board to live with a decision that has lasting impact on our quality of life forever. A decision to allow night flights cannot be reversed. The Federal Aviation Administration is strict and uncompromising.
In the early 80s a group of bright citizens, the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners; planning and zoning, town and mesa residents, and ski area management developed a well-thought-out plan to incorporate an airport into our community. A special-use permit was issued and night flights were not allowed. This was everyone’s understanding and supported by the newly developed airport authority. The plan preserved the peace and tranquility of our region after dark and sparked our economy. The decision-making process was a community effort. It benefited everyone, not a select few.
Safety, quality of life, and due process…it doesn’t seem like much to ask.
– Judith Ingalls MD