Friday, June 5, 2009

Airport discussions turn positive

Booster of relocated facility sees new opportunities

Express Staff Writer

Susan Cutter seemed to have reached something of a boiling point at Tuesday night's Airport Authority meeting. At that meeting, former pilot Jim Nystrom told the board he opposed relocating Friedman, despite having apparently favored a new site in previous years.

"I'm really tired of the negative rhetoric," Cutter told the board. "There are so many good things the new airport could bring us."

Cutter was a member of the now-disbanded site selection committee and a onetime pilot.

Earlier in the meeting, while the authority discussed declining parking lot usage and revenues, board member Susan McBryant suggested studying costs and feasibility of installing individually covered parking spaces as a parking incentive at premium rates to prevent cars from being covered in snow while owners are traveling. Such stalls cost between $2,500 and $3,000, according to the president of Car Park, Jeff Wolfe.

Cutter concurred this is the sort of innovation a new airport could embody. She also envisioned Sun Valley Co. building a special passenger lounge for its guests at a new airport's terminal, as well as vacationers picking up keys to their valley hotel rooms at a special desk in the terminal of a new airport.

As she continued, Cutter ticked off other ideas for a new airport: curbside valet rental-car delivery and return and an on-site, self-serve washing machine for general aviation aircraft.

Cutter said "attitudes should change from negative to positive" about the planned new facility.

A swath of land in southern Blaine County near Timmerman Hill is the leading candidate for the site of a new airport.

Mike Rasch, general manager of Atlantic Aviation, which provides private airport services at Friedman, added to the moment of upbeat talk. He said a new survey of several thousand U.S. and Canadian pilots by Aviation International News found that Atlantic's service facility at Friedman ranked 22nd in popularity among all such operations in the two countries.

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