The crash last year of a chartered Gulfstream III as it made an instrument approach into Aspen, Colorado, has prompted a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation that the FAA change nighttime restrictions and prohibitions in mountainous areas. The jet aircraft was attempting to land after official sunset, minutes before a Stage II nighttime curfew would take effect.
The board does not address the curfew and the role it may have played in the pilot's decision-making process. Instead, it asserts that ambient lighting conditions in the shadows of mountain peaks can become dangerously low well before the onset of aeronautical night. While the NTSB correctly identifies the importance for terrain awareness in low-light situations, the board should consider the safety implications of Aspen's nighttime curfew on Stage II and III aircraft, rather than simply recommending extending such restrictions. In the case of Aspen, general aviation operations are permitted at night, if a pilot has conducted an operation at the airport within the preceding 12 months.