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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of August 20 - 26, 2003

News

Friedman planners
renew bid for
new airport

Lack of space may require move


By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer

The Friedman Memorial Airport Authority is re-opening the planning stages for a new airport away from the challenging mountain valley terrain of Hailey.

The Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey is one of the busiest airports in Idaho, second only to Boise.Express photo by Willy Cook

The impetus for the move came with an initial presentation to the board Tuesday, Aug. 12 by Minneapolis-based consultant Tom Schnetzer on ways to improve the airport at its current location. The airport, which is the second busiest airport in Idaho after Boise, is required to make a number of upgrades to satisfy Federal Aviation Administration safety standards.

"We canít limit aircraft," said Baird, referring to planes like the Dash 8 400Q, a larger regional jet that Horizon Airlines lands in Hailey. The airport is required to provide a longer runway and more lateral safety buffers once the airport has 500 annual operations of large passenger aircraft.

But, none of the reconfiguration plans for the present airport met with the airport authority memberís approval.

"I donít see an alternative we could actually live with," said authority member Leonard Harlig. "There is not one that we could (take) before the community and say this is in your best interest."

Of the alternatives presented by Schnetzer, each involved large changes to the immediate landscape surrounding the airport, including shifting State Highway 75, acquiring more farmland to the south and even shifting west side hangers and the terminal.

Although the authority was only in the concept stage of how to bring the airport into compliance with standards for C3 aircraft, concerns were raised that the public cost is too great to make big changes in an area that is already a constrained environment.

"Itís time to bite the bullet and look at other sites," said Authority chairwoman Mary Ann Mix.

The Authority has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, Aug. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Blaine County Courthouse for a public information workshop. The group hopes to begin a discussion of a new Airport Master Plan. The public is invited to look at Schnetzerís recommendations and help the Authority brush off the early 1990s study prepared by Coffman Associates that proposed a new airport outside of the Wood River Valley.

There are a number of options for a new airport, but the best option is to choose a site with unlimited expansion possibilities, a place that can accommodate large jets like a Boeing 757, said airport manager Rick Baird after the meeting. "I am proud that the (Airport Authority) is looking at what is right for the community 25 years from now. The next six weeks is about public comment."

Baird said there is the possibility of seeing Friedman remain a small airport. Under the terms by which the early Hailey family donated the land for an airport if the use changes, the land reverts back to the Friedman trust.

"The original intent in the early 30s was for small aircraft," said Baird. "People who lived here didnít think it would become so busy.

Baird predicted the next few months could be exciting if the board decides to pursue a new location for a larger airport.

"If the board goes that way, in seven to 10 years we could be cutting a ribbon on a brand new facility," he said.

 

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.