Friday, August 7, 2009

Friedman challenges FAA on Willis airport plan

Express Staff Writer

Before issuing any decision on actor Bruce Willis' proposal to build a private airport in Camas County east of Fairfield, the Federal Aviation Administration must allow Friedman Memorial Airport officials to enter any possible objections, the Friedman governing board has written the FAA.

In a July 17 letter to the FAA, Friedman authority CHairwoman Martha Burke reminded the FAA that regulations prohibit issuing any "no objection" letter on the Willis proposal until Friedman has had its say.

Burke wrote that, in fact, the FAA must determine whether the Willis facility would "adversely affect the safe and efficient use of airspace" of Friedman Memorial or the airspace of three sites in Blaine County designated as potential locations for a replacement airport for Friedman.

FAA official Cayla Morgan told the Mountain Express the FAA probably will have concluded an air space study by the end of August.

Willis has proposed building an 8,500-foot runway capable of handling corporate jets and larger, presumably to initially serve his nearby Soldier Mountain ski resort. However, some observers have speculated Willis may be attempting a pre-emptive move to eventually convert the private field into a replacement for Friedman. Such a plan would be difficult without a major "sponsor" responsible for financial and operational requirements and would require extensive federal study. The Willis site also would lead to an outcry from Wood River resort and business interests because of its location some 50 miles from Sun Valley.

In FAA terms, airport air space not only includes the immediate runway area, but also areas miles in all directions involving landing and approach corridors, as well as nearby navigation aid checkpoints required for instrument operations.

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