There is no way I can convey to you how much seeing this file in X-plane means to me. I am biased – here, now – trying to write this, because I’ve wanted this one for so long. Why? Because, in a sense, I grew up in this valley. Though I lived in Texas we had a house here, on Woody Creek, and I spent my summers as a kid here, and, of course, winters too – when it snowed. When it counted. I learned to fly in Texas, but my first solo flights were here, to KASE, while I was still in my teens. Bonanzas, my father’s Baron, and later, a Cessna 421. A few years working in a Falcon 20 saw me in and out of this airport so many times I couldn’t begin to count. I hate to say it, but I know this airport. I don’t mean the terminals and the roadways, but the mountains around this valley, and the approaches to this airport.
I read the description of this one as one of the most dangerous in America – and I had to laugh. My guess is more people have died in Aspen falling down in their bathtub – in one year – than have died in flying related accidents here – over the last fifty years. Yes, one approach is a little squirrely, and yes, there are restrictions here – due to the mountains and the truly crappy weather that socks-in this valley from time to time – but that does not, in and of itself, makes this airport inherently dangerous. Any instrument rated pilot can manage this airport, and most pilots with a simple PPL can handle it in good weather – and I make that statement with a ton of experience to back it up. That said, if you’re hesitating to buy this file because you’ve heard it’s dangerous, don’t let that bother you. On the other hand, if you want this file because you’re seeking some kind of thrill – you’ll likely be disappointed.
Aspen is all about mountains – The Rocky Mountains. John Denver moved here after the success of his Rocky Mountain High album, while Hunter S Thompson moved in just down the road from us after he became famous, and I’ve seen them both at the Red Onion – lost in heated argument about nothing of consequence. If you’re into skiing and live in North America, chances are the skis you’ve owned, and the ski clothing you’ve bought over the years have something to do with this little town. Most of the warehouses across from the airport, across Hwy 82, are skiing related businesses. Aspen, you have to understand, would never have ascended to its place in the world without the popularity of skiing that began in the 60s, and a look at the scene in Google Earth will convey that to you:
a. the town of Aspen; b. Aspen Mountain, the original ski area; c. Aspen Highlands, the second large mountain to develop skiing in the area; d. Buttermilk Mountain, conceived as a place for beginners to learn to ski, and; e. Snowmass Mountain, a huge residential/resort complex with some of the best powder skiing in Colorado. And here’s the view in Aerosoft’s new KASE:
You can look at these images and go, “Hey, looks nice…” – while I look at them and think something like: “Man, they nailed this one. It feels just like home.” And in fact, I can almost see where our house was located, here, in this image. Again, it’s very hard for me to be objective, to write about this dispassionately.
In X-plane, as in any desktop simulator, your first choice here is whether to operate in a GA aircraft or commercially, but if you choose to go the GA route, think closely about your choice of aircraft. The field elevation is 7838MSL, and normally aspirated GA singles are at a real disadvantage here. If you can handle a Baron, by all means, do so. If you’ll be flying to the E then SE, towards Texas, the most direct VRF routing takes you right over Independence Pass, and you’ll need to be at 16,000MSL to safely clear the highest peaks in the area. Yes, oxygen is required. Flying to California is less of an issue. This is, therefore, NOT the best airport to try in a Cessna 150 or Cherokee 140. A Cessna 210 is a decent choice if you must use a single, but the A36 Bonanza is even better.
Above, the details. Landing here VFR is simplicity itself: do not run into the big rocky things all around you, and note, you will not see this airport until you are almost right on top of it. Note the elevations of mountains literally surrounding this airport, below:
And here’s what all the fuss is about.
And let me just say this; if you don’t understand what you’re looking at in the image above, you should probably not try to land at this airport in anything less than CAVOK conditions, because in real life conditions the weather here can change in minutes. That said, X-plane is a good place to push your limits, to learn new things, and this is indeed a complicated approach – but more for it’s missed approach procedure than the actual approach. This airport can be open one minute and be forced to close a half hour later when the visibility goes to zero/zero in blowing snow and 60-knot gusts. Commerical and corporate pilots earn their pay flying into this airport in winter.
What YOU will find here is a little less intimidating; just set the weather to clear and sunny and enjoy the scenery. If you decide to fly commercial aircraft out of here with METARs active – in winter – well, you should know your stuff before you try it. One of the odd characteristics of winters here is that the valley can be socked in – but the surrounding peaks can be basking in moonlight.
One other thing: by and large, all takeoffs are on RWY 33, while landings are on 15. There is a healthy soaring community in the area, and I have seen them land on 33 but, as a rule, don’t count on that being available. If you’re an accomplished carrier aviator you won’t understand what all the fuss is about…but, then again…how many people can say that?
Over the years, KASE has seen more than a few commercial operators come and go. Two of the earliest operators were Aspen Airways and Rocky Mountain Airways. AA flew Convair 580s over the hump to Denver, while RMA flew Twin Otters anywhere they could, but usually to Denver. Here’s the tale from Wikipedia:
Business Express and Mesaba Airlines, both operating as Northwest Airlink, respectively flew the Avro RJ70 and Avro RJ85, later versions of the BAe 146 jet, on seasonal nonstop flights to Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis on behalf of Northwest Airlines. Rocky Mountain Airways served Aspen as well with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter twin-engine turboprops and later with new, 50 passenger DHC-7 Dash 7four engine turboprops. RMA was the worldwide launch customer for the Dash 7 and was also Aspen Airways primary competitor on the Aspen-Denver route for many years. Rocky Mountain Airways later operated Continental Express feeder service into Aspen with its turboprop aircraft when Continental Airlines operated a connecting hub in Denver. In addition, Mesa Airlines served the airport flying de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 turboprops with flights to Denver operating as United Express and also separately as America West Express with Dash 8 flights to Phoenix. Mountain Air Express (MAX) served Aspen as well flying Dornier 328 propjets via a codesharing agreement with Western Pacific Airlines which was based in Colorado. An early commuter airline which served Aspen during the mid-1970s was Western Air Stages operating Handley Page Jetstream propjets with nonstop service to Colorado Springs.
So, historically speaking, Avro Rj 70s & 85s were the first jets to work out of here; Canadair and Embraer Rjs do the work these days. Turboprops? Twin Otters, DHC-7 Dash 7s and later, the Dash 8 Q400, as well as the HP Jetstream. All but the DHC-7 are available as high-quality payware in X-plane. Do NOT try to use your 757 here, or even a 733 or 738. You might get them to work, but your “passengers” wouldn’t enjoy the experience – and I doubt either the airframe or the landing gears would appreciate the gesture, too.
Bizjets? Sure. Anything short of a BBJ class aircraft.
If you want to experience the full effect of flying here, I’d use either the Twin Otter or the Avro Rj85. Yes, American, Delta, and United all serve this airport now – with CRj and ERj aircraft doing the chores to destinations like KDFW, KATL, KMSP, KLAX, and KORD, and yes, these are all realistic choices in X-plane – but the real job here used to be ASE to DEN (Stapleton), make a hot turnaround and fly straight back to ASE. Repeat as needed or until the weather craps-out. Just imagine loads full of skiers landing at Stapleton in Braniff 727s, the passengers carrying their bags full of ski-boots and skis across the ramps to a waiting Twin Otter or Avro Rj, handing their bags to the pilots – who tossed them up inside the baggage hold, then walking (usually in a modest snowfall) up rickety little stairs into the heated warmth of the waiting aircraft. If you knew anything at all about flying you were terrified – because you knew the aircraft was loaded at least 800 pounds over gross.
Below, I’ve added the JarDesigns GHE package to the SSG 195, but this is overkill. No catering trucks here, and no Jetways, just airstairs. The terminal building looks fairly accurate, however. Windows are textured, no interior objects noted. Ramps are detailed but not crowded. Atlantic Aviation, the only FBO here, is well modeled and the bizjet ramps are crowded, as they always are here. Still, keep in mind the ramps in the file will NOT be filled with all this equipment. You can add that with the JarDesigns GHE package if you so choose.
And…there are people on the ramps, waiting to board! What a concept! So glad to see this, too! And this is a very accurate grouping, as well…
…as most of the women are in 5-inch heels. Red, too. Tres chic…
The textures used on the windows are okay; I think a modeled interior would have looked nicer, but that said, my performance was excellent and never fell below 20fps with ALL settings at MAX.
Ramps without GHE are decently cluttered with static and animated equipment, but all-in-all they look a little bare to me.
Same with the parking areas…a little too dark, a little too bare. That repeating window texture a little too bland.
The view from the front office is, however, perfect from the Rj85.
I do think the Avroliner Project’s Rj85 is the best aircraft to use at this airport. With its deep, slotted flaps and low approach speed, not to mention the safety factor associated with four engines, this was an aircraft well-suited to the area. This acf is updated to Xp 11 standards and is a joy to fly. Making the hop to Denver’s KDIA will be a perfect 40-minute affair in Xp, too.
All of the local landmarks are included here, and they look just about perfect; even the local architecture is ably represented with a new class of placed objects matched to the local style.
Above, this is the scene that got me…those red colored mountains at the west end of the valley. There are too many powerline towers in the image, but that’s the only issue I can see that keeps this from looking just like a photograph. The scenery in this file is really that good; in fact, it’s just about perfect.
That said, the file is available now at all the usual outlets. I picked mine up from the AeroSoft store, located here. Installation is straightforward, but do read the installation instructions if you’re using AlpilotX’s v4 mesh, or another ortho. Open the file with Runway Follows Terrain Contours set to ON or you’ll see a bunch of errors in the scenery load. Again, performance was not an issue, and I will see you guys in a few days. I’ll be in X-plane, wandering down memory lane.
Many thanks to the team that put this together. Excellent job.
Adios – C