Airport is keeping
lights on despite electrical shorts
By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer
Patched together for one of the busiest
weeks of the year, the lighting system for Friedman Memorial Airport is "fully
operational." But wiring along a taxiway adjacent to the runway relocation
project is antiquated and breaks in the system have been "jumped" in several
places, said airport manager, Rick Baird at the regular airport authority
meeting July 1.
To better illustrate the problem, Baird
displayed what looked like a chunk of obsidian at the meeting. A short in the
system had scorched the portion of soil and sand, and converted the earth to
glass. Much like leaks in a garden hose, breaks in the systemís buried wire have
allowed current to blast the ground.
Electricity has burned through the old
wires in at least three places, said Baird. Because the lighting system is not
divided into independent segments, one problem spot can cause all of the runway
lights to go out.
Despite the shorts, old wire usually
carries sufficient power to keep the lights on, but the problem could cause the
whole system to shut down at any moment, Baird said. The airport has closed
early a couple of nights as a result. The system is designed to shut down
automatically if the flow of current falls below a certain amperage.
"When we start getting wet this winter we
could lose the system routinely," said Baird, who acknowledged that the system
needs an immediate overhaul and could need to be replaced altogether. "To
replace the system would take considerable effort."
For now, the airport has spent about
$11,000 and hired teams of electricians and electrical engineers who spent two
weeks working on a Band-Aid solution, until the oldest section can be replaced.
The airport authority board authorized
Baird to look into incorporating the overhaul into federally funded airport
improvement projects already underway.
"It was a real experience learning about
the old system," said Baird.
In other business:
∑ Baird showed a locally produced digital video disk about noise
abatement intended for pilots who may not be aware of the impact of air traffic
on the city of Bellevue. The production is a geographical illustration of
the valley that shows appropriate flight patterns designed to preserve quality
of life in the south valley city.
"Avoid over-flight of the city of
Bellevue," says the voice on the narration. "Maintain 7000 feet over Bellevue
... stay as close to the (western) ridgeline as is safe and prudent."
There are specific instructions for pilots
of various aircraft, whether approaching or departing from the north or south,
and it goes so far as to discourage louder "stage three aircraft" from coming to
town at all. The disk also says that fire crews and air traffic controllers are
staffed at the airport from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. There is to be no operation in or
out of the airport from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The DVD is not available as a new release
at the video store, but pilots can pick up a copy at the airport managerís
∑ The Transportation Security Administration has been convinced to pay
for the three Hailey police officers required for security detail full time at
The government has agreed to pay $19.06
per hour per officer, but Baird said the real cost comes out to over $20 per
hour. The issue has been a point of contention since the spring because the TSA
is still requiring extra security, but has not been forthcoming in helping the
small local airport pay for the service provided by the city.
"We are still waiting for a March check,"
said Baird. "Iíll make sure we are appropriately reimbursed or we wonít provide
∑ At the airport authority meeting the board also took a look at the
fiscal 2004 budget, which is still due for a public hearing. At just over $5
million, the budget was adopted for publication. The public hearing was
scheduled for Tuesday, July 29.
In his staff report Baird revealed that
Hailey has spent over $200,000 in legal expenses as the airport faces a
discrimination lawsuit. Filed by a regular visitor to the valley, Ronal Tutor,
CEO of Tutor-Saliba Corp. of Sylmar Calif. the complaint says that Tutor, who
owns a Boeing luxury business jet that is similar to Boeing 737, has been denied
his constitutional right to travel.
The plane has been banned from the airport
because it exceeds weight limits set by the airport. Tutor has been restricted
from landing his plane at the airport due to the damage the planeís weight could
do to the airport runway, said Baird.
The money spent so far on the case has
gone to the airportís legal counsel to cover the cost of research of airport
rules and Federal Aviation Administration standards. The airport has made a
request in U.S. District Court that the suit be dismissed.