Air Transport World

Aspen Airways sticks with what it knows - success.

Denver--Aspen Airways is a portrait of an airlike that is a success at what it does, likes what it does and intends to keep on doing it. This conservative attitude may be somewhat of a surprise, coming from a successful feeder carrier that recently became a jet operator with the introduction of a British Aerospace BAe 146-100. But, regardless of the firm order for one more 146 and options for six, Aspen Airways officers firmly deny aspirations for an Air Wisconsin-like expansion.

In fact, the prospect of finding enough profitable markets fitting the Aspen mold to keep eight 146s busy has carrier President Gerald B. Hickman a bit concerned. "In January, our first full month with the 146, we flew 254 hours," or about 8.2 hours daily, Hickman told ATW. "When the next one arrives we've got to find another 254 hours for it to do." The arrival of the 146s on option will further compound the problem," and sooner or later you've run out of places you can compete profitably, and you find yourself up someplace competing against the big boys."

Aspen has no plans to sell any of its fleet of 11 Convair 580s as the 146s come on line. Their ability to serve though mountain airports--particularly Aspen, Colo.--plus their 50-passenger capacity that is well matched to Aspen markets make them a tough fleet to replace, especially when it is considered that only $1 million in debt remains on the entire fleet.

The retention of the 580s presents a tempting opportunity to use the extra capacity for a major expansion effort, especially in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall when resort area traffic falls off. But Hickman is bound and determined to resist the temptation. "I am very, very conservative about expansion," Hickman said. "We've looked at the Golden Gates, the Golden Wests, the Pacific Expresses and Air Floridas. …

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