FAA supports airport search option
Interim standards for Friedman loosened
"If this thing is shut down, not only
will (the community) lose a lot of access, but it will lose a significant
— THOMAS B. CAMPION,
"Save Friedman Airport" petition representative
By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer
Hailey airport officials may not stop the
process of working to achieve the latest level of safety compliance for larger
aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration has reported to the Friedman
Memorial Airport Authority. But discussions at a meeting in Seattle last month
have resulted in a better compromise on interim requirements than the board
expected as they move forward with the latest master plan, which includes
looking for a site for a new airport.
Airport manger Rick Baird and Airport
Authority Commissioner Mary Ann Mix reported at the board’s meeting Tuesday,
Nov. 4, that the FAA would not relent on requirements that the airport continue
to upgrade standards for larger aircraft.
As the airport nears completion, upgrades
to meet B3 requirements specified in the 1994 airport master plan were designed
to eliminate safety deviations from the runway protection zone. The Hailey
airport is now required to meet design standards to accommodate larger, C3
The FAA said Friedman Memorial Airport
must meet the new standards, but the governing body also said the new
requirements could not be met at the current location because of the impact on
the community, said Hailey City Councilwoman Martha Burke in her report to the
council Monday, Nov. 9.
Among other improvements, the C3
designation would require a 1000-foot buffer at either end of the runway and
buffers laterally, which in the case of the Hailey Airport would mean moving
Highway 75 and acquiring more private property. A compromise is acceptable to
the FAA, because the Airport Authority has announced plans to look for a new
The airport allows some larger aircraft
(heavier planes with wider wingspans) to land at the airport, something the FAA
has allowed by granting waivers to airports in the past.
"The message is the (FAA) hasn’t given
(the Airport Authority) a lot of choices," said Ketchum attorney Thomas B.
Campion, who is representing a group advocating to "Save Friedman Airport." "It
seems the FAA is giving them some slack, giving them an informal waiver."
Because the authority has chosen to go
ahead with directing the latest airport master plan to include consideration of
a new location, the FAA has agreed to allow the airport to take some less
drastic upgrade measures.
The FAA agreed to fund a feasibility
study, which will be part of the new master plan to see if building a new
airport away from Hailey makes sense for the tourism-based economy of the valley
and if such a plan works for the community. The FAA asked that the airport look
at making interim improvements: bringing the airport closer to required C3
standards as prospects of a new location are studied.
Interim improvements should include
lateral grading alongside the runway and extending the runway 200 feet to the
south. The FAA also asked the airport to study the possibility of installing a
breakaway concrete crash zone, a program called EMASS at the north end of the
runway. Much like a runaway truck ramp, the safety system has been installed at
other airports around the country. The cost, about $5 million, is prohibitive
the authority said, but for now the FAA has asked that the airport at least look
into the safety buffer.
The airport will complete its previously
scheduled upgrades, including improvements and expansion of the terminal and
moving the control tower, but the arrangement with the FAA is satisfactory for
the interim as the airport moves ahead with its study of how and where to move
airport operations, Baird said. "We thought they would say, ‘no matter what you
have to have 1000 feet on either end of the runway.’" The study will also look
at what to do with the current runway.
Campion presented the "Save Friedman
Airport" petition to the Airport Authority asking it to direct its energies
toward improving the safety and facilities of the existing airport. The petition
had 208 names on it.
The advocacy group argues that the valley
cannot support two airports and that a new airport would force Friedman to
"Their goal is to keep the airport open
whether there is a new airport or not," Campion said. "The primary purpose is to
preserve at least (general aviation service)."
The group cites the 1990 decision not to
go forward with a new airport. Moving the airport will "permanently and
adversely" affect the quality of life in the valley, the petition signers argue.
"If this thing is shut down, not only will
(the community) lose a lot of access, but it will lose a significant economic
engine," Campion said.
Authority board member Leonard Harlig said
it is not a forgone conclusion that Friedman will be closed. The feasibility
study will look at all possibilities.
Improvements planned at Friedman would
continue over the next 10 years, Mix said. The airport can expect about $1
million per year in grants from the federal government, which would largely pay
for the improvements.