Aspen Airways

Aspen Airways

Aspen Airways airline_codes|AP|ASP|Aspen Air was a former airline carrier and regional affiliate of United Express and based in Aspen, Colorado. It ceased operations in 1989 when it was acquired by Mesa Airlines and Air Wisconsin Services, Inc.


Aspen Airways was named after the aspen tree and not the town of Aspen, Colorado where it was based.

Aspen Airways was founded in 1952 by Walter Paepske, as the flight department of the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies. It was created to fly personnel between Aspen and Denver. The airline's first aircraft were surplus Douglas DC-3s.

In 1963, Aspen Airways was purchased by J.W. "Bill" Ringsby. By this time, Aspen was operating Convair 580s.

In 1985, the airline acquired the BAe 146 and began providing the first commercial jet airliner service to Aspen. It inaugurated the airliner service from Denver to Aspen, Amarillo, and Lubbock.

In September 1985, Aspen Airways became a United Express affiliate carrier, providing regional service from United's Denver hub. By 1986, Aspen Airways was providing non-stop seasonal service from Aspen to Dallas/Ft Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, and Long Beach.

In 1989, Aspen offered itself up for sale. Several suitors attempted to purchase the airline. Its employees attempted to acquire the airline, but were unable to come up with the capital. Next, the Giant Group, a conglomeration of cement and recycling companies, offered to purchase the airline, but their offer fell through. In the end, Mesa Airlines acquired Aspen's Denver hub and routes except for the Denver to Aspen route, stations and ground equipment. Air Wisconsin Services Inc., the parent company for Air Wisconsin acquired all of Aspen's common stock, its Aspen routes, and its BAE 146 and Convair 580 aircraft.

Air Wisconsin Services continued to operate Aspen Airways as a wholly owned subsidiary separate from its Air Wisconsin airline from 1990 until 1991 when it merged the two airlines together.


At the time of the separate sale and merger, Aspen Airways operated four BAE 146 aircraft and 10 Convair 580 aircraft. When Mesa acquired the United Express hub and field stations (except for the Denver-Aspen route), the Convair 580s were parked and eventually sold.

Ironically, Mesa lost its United Express status in the late 1990s, regaining it several years later following litigation settlement. Air Wisconsin, the original United Express carrier and Aspen Airways' merger partner, lost its UEx partnership following protracted negotiations with United Airlines. The United Express routes from Denver and other cities to Aspen are being flown by SkyWest Airlines (with Bombardier regional jets) and Mesa (with DeHavilland Dash 8 turboprops). The last of the BAe-146s that pioneered scheduled passenger jet service into Aspen in the mid 1980s was retired in 2006.

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