Friday, April 7, 2006

Airport antenna may be moved to Baldy

Express Staff Writer

Another limitation created by the surrounding mountainous terrain of Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey has come to light.

Friedman Memorial Airport Authority member Dr. Ron Fairfax, a pilot and aircraft owner, said that picking up transmissions from Friedman's new ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information System) is impossible when airborne west, east and north of the airport.

Fairfax told fellow board members Tuesday night during an authority meeting that when he was flying inbound to Friedman recently, he was instructed by the regional Salt Lake City Air Traffic Control Center to check the Friedman ATIS for weather. But he told controllers that transmissions could not be received. So the Salt Lake controller had to recite weather conditions at the Hailey air field.

The ATIS antenna, Airport Manager Rick Baird told the board, is mounted atop the airport control tower and probably can only be heard 15 to 30 miles south of the airport where there are no terrain obstructions.

However, Baird said, the problem might be solved by the Federal Aviation Administration: The FAA doesn't want air-route traffic controllers at distant locations using their time to repeat airport conditions at Friedman.

Baird said an ideal location for the antenna would be atop Bald Mountain, just west of Ketchum. The costs of stringing a telecommunications line to a mountain antenna from Friedman, however, would have to be borne by the FAA. He said now that the FAA is aware of the reception problem, the agency will work toward a solution.

The ATIS broadcasts regularly recorded updates, each with a designation from the phonetic alphabet, A through Z. When contacting the Friedman tower for clearances prior to takeoff or prior to landing, pilots tell controllers they have all the information in "Juliet" or whatever the latest automated broadcast has been designated. This eliminates controllers spending time repeating airport conditions.

Friedman ATIS, which broadcasts on VHF frequency 128.225, provides the latest information on visibility, ceiling, wind direction and speed, active runway, and any special activities on or around the field about which pilots should be alerted to maintain safe operations.

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