Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Airport faces shutdown next May

Runway erosion no immediate risk to aircraft

Express Staff Writer

Friedman Memorial Airport dominates the southern end of Hailey. Officials are now saying its runway, center, needs major repairs. Photo by Willy Cook

Another shutdown of Friedman Memorial Airport for runway repairs seems almost unavoidable, with mid-May of next year the likely closing time.

Airport Manager Rick Baird and engineering consultant Chuck Sundby told the airport's governing authority last week that Federal Aviation Administration officials they briefed on the problem concur that major repair or replacement is needed.

The Friedman board also agreed and instructed Baird and Sundby to return to the board with alternatives in September, including its recommended preference.

Baird told the board at an earlier meeting that the runway's composition of materials has just about reached its predicted life span, and moisture has begun to erode it in spots.

The preferred repair method literally entails recycling the existing runway—digging up and milling eight to 10 inches depth of the runway and adding new material and relaying it on the existing base.

Costs upward of $2 million would be carried by the Federal Aviation Administration. Baird estimated that $250,000 probably would be spent just on preliminary studies.

How long the runway, and therefore the airport, would be closed to air traffic has not been determined. But May 2007 has been tentatively designated because runway repairs and replacement require certain temperature ranges to be effective.

Baird and Sundby said the runway is constantly monitored, and patch work is done where small spots of pavement have crumbled.

The runway will receive its heaviest, concentrated aircraft traffic this year in mid-July when dozens of corporate jets bearing VIPs will arrive for the Allen & Co. media and executives conference.

Crews will watch for any runway fracturing during that time as well.

In other Friedman Memorial Airport Authority business:

· Baird said new precision approach lighting and grooving of the runway to improve aircraft braking would be completed during a brief September shutdown of the airport. "This airport is significantly more safe, not the same airport," Baird said.

· At the suggestion of airport attorney Barry Luboviski, he and authority members Len Harlig and Dr. Ron Fairfax would review the hangar lease of contractor Dave Wilson, who says his hangar is medium size, not large. The dispute is over storage space that is not used for storing aircraft. Other hangars with similar space will be inspected.

· The new budget of $9,434,369 was ordered published for public comment before adoption for the beginning of the Oct. 1 fiscal year. It reflects adjustments in parking and landing fees for various size general aviation aircraft, including so-called small, personal micro jets, 2,500 of which Baird said will be operating nationally in the next five years. The board also added $20,000 to the $87,284 budgeted salary of the airport manager in the event the board decided to increase the pay, and added another $20,000 to the merit/discretionary payroll fund. However, there was no commitment to use the added funds.

· Baird said if SkyWest Airlines doesn't accept the new landing approach requirements for the Transponder Landing System, the long-sought TLS "may be over." SkyWest has been the only applicant to pay for operating the TLS and is reviewing new approach "plates" (small-sheet diagrams of parameters to be followed by pilots in instrument weather conditions) for approval. One of the most stringent requirements is to demonstrate a single-engine missed approach in the twin-engine turboprop Embraer Brasilia aircraft it operates.

· The board reduced to 10 percent from 15 percent the amount Friedman will be paid on gross revenues of rental car companies operating in the terminal.

· Several board members expressed concern about arriving passengers using off-airport car rentals companies. The off-airport companies will have a rendezvous area in the lower west parking lot to pick up and discharge customers. Installation of a weather shelter was suggested.

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