It required only a matter of minutes for the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority to grasp—and then gasp!—the political and financial realities of trying to keep the Hailey airport operating at its present site.
Without so much as a formal vote, the board moved on to other business at its monthly meeting Tuesday night after hearing a consultant's report. This would seem to indicate its decision to find a distant site for a new airport was the paramount objective and tacitly agreeing Friedman's future as a commercial field is doomed.
The city of Hailey and the Blaine County Commission have already formally voted to not expand Friedman beyond its 230 acres, which would be required to comply with Federal Aviation Administration safety standards.
At the insistence of north Blaine County resort and business interests, the authority instructed airport consultants Mead & Hunt and Toothman-Orton to study what would be required to keep Friedman operating.
The findings, based on FAA standards, were staggering:
· To provide more separation between the runway and parallel taxiways, a large segment of state Highway 75 would need to be relocated eastward to accommodate an expanded airport.
· Moving the highway would require immediate condemnation of at least 30 homes in the Woodside area, with more to be condemned because of the environmental impact of closer airport operations.
· More land would need to be acquired to extend the runway southward.
· Such a major modification of the airport would close it for construction for the better part of a year, thus preventing crucial airline service.
· Expanding the airport to the west would be as costly or more so: all existing facilities, such as hangars, terminal, fire and rescue facilities, and parking ramps, would need to be razed and rebuilt on additional land to be acquired.
Airport manager Rick Baird said just the on-airport construction costs would be $40 million or more. Costs of relocating the highway and condemnation of homes would run into additional millions of dollars.
Baird and the board concluded that a new airport—estimated to cost $100 million—at a new 1,200-acre site with more space, complete all-weather navigational aids and away from mountainous terrain obstructions would be a better investment.