E-190 may be certified for Aspen

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Embraer and Frontier Airlines are looking at certifying the E-190 for operations at Aspen as the US carrier looks for alternatives to continue serving the lucrative market after it phases out its fleet of Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s.

Frontier parent Republic Airways now plans to phase out its Q400 fleet next April. Republic currently has three Q400s remaining from an initial fleet of 11 which are being used to serve three Colorado markets - Aspen, Colorado Springs and Durango - until it can remarket its last batch of turboprops. Frontier vice president strategy and planning Daniel Shurz says the carrier plans to eventually deploy Republic-operated E-Jets in the Colorado Spring and Durango markets but currently there are no aircraft in its group fleet which are certified for Aspen Airport.

Shurz says Frontier and Republic are now discussing with Embraer and the Aspen Airport to see if the E-170s or E-190s can fly into the famous ski resort. "We'd like to find a solution. If we can find a way to make the 190 or 170 work we will. We like the market," Shurz says.

The E-190s is more likely to be certified than the E-170 for Aspen's steep approach and short high altitude runway. Shurz says Aspen is planning to soon embark on a runway extension project which could help the certification effort. He says the E-190's wingspan and maximum takeoff weight are currently above limits set by local regulations at Aspen but the airport is looking at possibly extending these limits to include the E-190.

The Bombardier CRJ700, which has a better short field performance than the CRJ200, is currently the only commercial jet aircraft operating into Aspen. Previously the BAe 146 was common on Aspen routes but the type is no longer operated by an US carrier.