Friday, March 11, 2005

Airport secures federal safety funds

Money to be used for runway upgrades

Express Staff Writer

Intended to bring the Hailey airfield up to current safety standards for airports accommodating smaller B3 aircraft, Idaho's Washington, D.C., beltway leadership announced Tuesday that $4.5 million in federal transportation dollars have been approved for runway improvements at Friedman Memorial Airport.

As the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority works to satisfy the FAA directive to possibly move the Hailey airport to a new location to accommodate larger C3 aircraft, airport staff continues to work toward the safety standards of the 2004 master plan for achieving B3 safety standards. Classifications of aircraft are based on wingspan and weight.

The airport applied for the grant money on behalf of the two owners of the airfield, Hailey and Blaine County. The funds are intended for incremental improvements toward the goal of compliance with FAA safety area guidelines.

"Safety is our top concern and this funding will improve conditions at Friedman Memorial," said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. "This is one step, but an important one, in improving conditions for critical air service to the Wood River Valley and Sun Valley areas."

Airport manager Rick Baird said airport officials are looking at a number of options for how to use the money for incremental safety improvements. One idea is to use some of the money to construct an Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMASS), at the north end of the runway, which is like a runaway truck ramp for airplanes that fail to stop before reaching the end of the solid tarmac. Other options include grading improvements on the sides and the ends of the runway.

"This is an incremental improvement," Baird said. "It doesn't make us fully compliant for B3. We are doing everything we possibly can inside the airport for safety."

In addition to other improvements, Baird said that for full B3 compliance two aircraft hangers still have to be moved. They are the Sun Aviation maintenance hanger and the Sinclair hanger that are closest to the runway.

"These funds are essential to maintaining the valuable use of the airport, the needs of the community, and the economic interests of the area," said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. "I'm fully supportive of safe, efficient, and viable access through this important mode of transportation, and I hope to continue working with all stakeholders on the long-term transportation goals of the region."

Baird explained that maintaining safety standards at the airport have become more challenging because the FAA has required that the airport be made safe for larger aircraft, which is the impetus for finding a new airport location in the area, a plan the FAA also supports. In the meantime, safety at the current airport is a top priority, which the federal money will help achieve.

"This great news was made possible by the hard work and dedication of everyone involved with Friedman Memorial Airport," said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "I want to commend everyone at the airport, the city of Hailey and Blaine County for their efforts to secure this grant, upgrade Friedman Memorial Airport, and attract new economic activity to the region."

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