Friedman Memorial Airport manager Rick Baird may be the most optimistic and most patient public official in the territory. But even never-say-die Baird is bound to run out of hope after waiting 14 years for the Hailey airport to have something approaching a working inclement weather landing system.
Since around 1994, Friedman has been dickering with the Federal Aviation Administration for installation and certification of a Transponder Landing System (TLS). The $1 million system has been installed on the airport, but it has yet to be tested and certified for use. At every monthly meeting of the airport authority, Baird routinely reports on the status of TLS: in limbo.
Although the Oregon-based TLS manufacturer, Advanced Navigation and Positioning Corporation (ANPC), does not have another U.S.-based TLS, it continues to tell Baird that one of the air carriers serving Friedman, SkyWest Airlines, would become the required sponsor and operator of the system.
Disappointment has haunted Baird about the TLS. The FAA's recently resigned administrator, Marion Blakey, went so far as to promise a system for Friedman by 2006.
This week, Baird said a system the FAA offered—a so-called localizer instrument navigation aid that helps pilots align their aircraft on the runway—would need land south of the airport for a transmitter structure. But he said the airport authority has been adamant that it would not expand the airport by acquiring more land to the south.
But with any landing system that seeks to lower weather minimums, Baird says there's a catch—the so-called "missed approach" factor.
Baird said "you can't make the mountains go away." He said air carriers must demonstrate with any landing system they can break off a landing approach and climb out of the Friedman area on a single engine -- a feat, Baird said, that is "prohibitive" because of the steep climb attitude required to miss nearby terrain.
Friedman does not have precision approach radar, either.
While the TLS has been gathering dust, other landing aids have been coming on line. One is WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) that Baird doubts air carriers serving Friedman have installed in their aircraft.
Although Baird said he's not giving up on TLS, he leaves the impression that a modern, state-of-the-art weather landing system won't be installed until there's a new airport, which could be built by 2017.