Friday, July 9, 2010

Allen & Co. jets get bigger

This week, 80 percent expected to exceed airport’s design limit

Express Staff Writer

Private jets sit parked at Friedman Memorial Airport Tuesday, the day before meetings started at the annual Allen & Co. business conference in Sun Valley.

While Friedman Memorial Airport remains the same size, many of the corporate and private jets using it in greater numbers are getting larger.

In fact, Friedman Manager Rick Baird told the airport's governing board Tuesday that of the 100 aircraft expected to arrive for the annual Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley this week, 80 percent are above Friedman's design limit.

"Design limit" has become a red flag for Friedman in recent years, and is a major reason a replacement airport is being planned.

As Baird has explained before, the Federal Aviation Administration classifies Friedman's design standards as a B-III category, while the new generation of larger Gulfstream and Bombardier Global Express jets and Horizon Air's Bombardier Q400 are C-III category.

Baird said a few of the larger models even are categorized as D-III.

That is, the larger jets have longer wingspans and higher landing approach speeds than Friedman's design standards allow.

Under current operational limitations, all aircraft taxiing must be halted when the Q400 is taking off and landing to meet FAA safety standards.

The heavy aircraft traffic volume during events such as Allen & Co. also presses Friedman to find parking space for larger jets. Baird said more than 60 of the jets arriving this week will be parked at Friedman. Others either will return to their home bases or park at alternative airports such as Twin Falls.

Even some taxiway areas are being used for parking.

A replacement for Friedman is scheduled to be built and opened by 2014. A final site selection has not been made by the FAA, though site 10-A in southern Blaine County east of state Highway 75 is favored by the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority.

The conference at Sun Valley Resort concludes Saturday night.

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