By Ryan Grenoble
DENVER ― Vice President Mike Pence once said the Trump administration is “the best friend that small business in America will ever have.”
Last week, Pence cost one such small business in Aspen upward of $10,000 in lost earnings, after his presence triggered flight restrictions and prevented a hot air balloon company from making any flights while he was in town.
Snowmass-based Above It All Balloon Co. had to cancel all of its planned flights during Pence’s six-day visit, which fell on days that are usually very busy for the company.
“It’s been very disappointing,” co-owner Pam Wood told The Aspen Times. “This is our busiest week of the winter.”
The declaration of “national defense airspace” prevented anyone from flying within 3 miles of the estate where the Pences stayed on the outskirts of town. Those who violate the Federal Aviation Administration order and fly anyway can be hit with civil penalties, criminal charges and ― if they’re deemed to be an imminent security threat to the vice president ― the “use of deadly force.”
Sandra Leidholdt via Getty Images
A hot air balloon takes to the air near Aspen, Colorado, during the annual Snowmass Balloon Festival in September.
Wood noted that she respects the need for security, but said she was frustrated by the complete lack of a heads-up. She estimated her loss to be around $10,000 ― potentially as much as $20,000.
“I found out the morning of his arrival,” she told the New York Daily News. “We weren’t given any advance notice. I couldn’t try to plan and change our launch site because we need insurance and approvals and permits and to try to move that on such short notice was impossible.”
In some respects, Pence is just following in his boss’ footsteps. President Donald Trump’s kids took a trip to Aspen last year, a jaunt that cost taxpayers upward of $330,000 in security costs alone, as the roughly 100 Secret Service agents that accompanied them had to rent ski equipment, buy lift tickets and pay for accommodations in the pricey resort town.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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