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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 9 - 15, 2003

News

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 office.

∑  The Transportation Security Administration has been convinced to pay for the three Hailey police officers required for security detail full time at the airport.

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 service."

∑  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.

 

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