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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of October 15 - 21, 2003


Control of
Friedman slips from
community grasp

With new plans, authority to
negotiate with FAA

"The FAA is asserting considerably more control. Historically there has been agency antagonism, but the agency is becoming increasingly aggressive."

PETER KIRSCH, Attorney for Friedman Memorial Airport

Express Staff Writer

At the end of October, Friedman Memorial Airport manager Rick Baird and members of the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority will travel to Seattle to consult with representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration to establish interim requirements for the Hailey airport while a new airport location is sought.

Most of the federally funded improvements scheduled to make the Hailey site compliant for B3 certification are nearly complete, said Baird. One of the last projects will be to move the control tower and the base of operations for Sun Valley Aviation away from Highway 75 to the other side of the airport.

Speakers at a meeting of the American Association of Airport Executives in Sun Valley this week focused on issues pertaining to resort airport operation such as security, navigation and the impact of current FAA policy.

Access restrictions have been the key stumbling block for airport planners in recent months, as control over which aircraft can and cannot fly into Friedman has slipped from the fingers of airport authorities.

"The FAA is asserting considerably more control," said attorney Peter Kirsch of the Denver law firm Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell, who is helping to defend Friedman in its fight against Ronald Tutor, a California-based developer who has insisted on landing his 737 business jet in Hailey. "Historically there has been agency antagonism, but the agency is becoming increasingly aggressive."

The relationship between airports and the FAA is linked to funding. Because airports like Friedman receive considerable federal funds for improvements, expansion and operations, the government has some say over restrictions airports try to impose. In the past, the role of the FAA has been focused on safety. Kirsch said that under the current administration the FAA is taking its role a step further and forcing the hand of airport authorities around the country.

They are pushing access by larger jets to smaller airports, he said. If an airport is rated for planes weighing 65,000 to 75,000 pounds, the FAA is "tickling the weight limit."

If airports try to limit access, the FAA argues that "grant assurances" do not permit airports to place restrictions on such basis, Kirsch said. "The FAA is saying, ‘We don’t trust local airports with noise, safety and weight issues—Washington knows best.’"

Airports have approached Kirsch, in light of the current administration’s inflexibility, to ask about the possibility of de-federalizing their operations. He said that airports are not allowed to return funds. Legal battles lie ahead between many airports and the FAA. If current policies lead to safety concerns—because airports are forced to push the bounds of safety concerns—it is not clear who will be responsible, the FAA or local airports.

Kirsch said the airline manufacturers and the fractional ownership jet community are responsible for the pressure on small airports that is surfacing through the FAA.

He also said that for Friedman the proposal for a new airport should be amenable to the FAA and that they are likely to work with the community on restrictions as the Hailey site becomes an interim airport.

"The FAA likes new airports," 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.