Friday, August 5, 2005

Friedman to pressure FAA for weather landing system

Is FAA bureaucrat trying to kill TLS?

Express Staff Writer

After seeming to want more pilots' comments on several weather landing systems, the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority went into executive session Tuesday night and then emerged with renewed enthusiasm for the Transponder Landing System (TLS).

Neither Airport Manager Rick Baird or authority attorney Barry Luboviski would reveal what was discussed in the closed-door session at the end of the regular board meeting Tuesday night.

However, the likelihood is the board was told of obstacles that could lie ahead if it tried to acquire property south of Friedman Memorial from the Eccles family for landing systems off the airport. The Eccles family—which owns a large ranch adjacent to the airport—has made it clear publicly through representatives that it would resist attempts to buy or condemn more land, a fight that could last for years in the courts.

The other system discussed for possible installation, a Localizer Directional Aid (LDA), would require adding about 25 acres south of the airport for installation of a series of antennae.

However, the $1 million TLS already is installed at Friedman and only lacks a flight check for certification by the Federal Aviation Administration to become operational. No additional land would be needed.

The board agreed to send off a letter this week to the FAA and the Idaho congressional delegation, urging immediate certification of the TLS, which would help drastically reduce the number of airline flights diverted or canceled because of winter weather at Friedman.

Baird, who called TLS "a good system" that "I would prefer 10 times over," said it could be up and running in no time if the FAA ordered a flight check.

But, he said the FAA is resorting to an irrelevant issue to either delay or kill the TLS. Since aircraft approaching Friedman Memorial must make a turn into the valley to avoid terrain, the FAA has said TLS needs certification for "offset approaches."

Baird called that a "red herring." He said pilots are accustomed to making turning approaches to Friedman as well as other airports.

Pressure for action on the TLS initially came during a July meeting of the board from Dick Fenton, a Ketchum real estate executive, who reminded the authority that the TLS manufacturer, Advanced Navigation and Positioning Corp., had stuck with the airport for several years and deserved an opportunity to be heard.

At Tuesday night's board meeting, ANPC President Jeff Mains appeared to plead his case for TLS.

"The FAA is trying to make TLS go away," Mains charged. He said the FAA has created an "arduous" process for approving TLS operations.

The TLS instrument in an aircraft cockpit is similar to a more expensive ILS system and is activated by dialing in a code on the aircraft's transponder that coincides with a ground operator's code. TLS provides a vertical needle to show pilots if they're centered on the runway for their landing approach, as well as a horizontal needle that shows if they're at a safe altitude during their descent for landing.

LDA only has the vertical needle and pilots must rely on their altimeter to calculate height over the airport during descent.

Prior to the executive session, and while board members were discussing whether more input from pilots would be useful before making a decision, Ketchum mayoral candidate Maurice Charlat, also a member of the airport site selection committee representing the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, complained that he's "heard no enthusiasm from this board (about TLS). I get the sense the (Friedman Authority) wants to hear it (explanation of TLS) over and over again. You should put something in writing (to the FAA) with gusto."

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