Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Airport ready for increased traffic

Allen & Co. conference pushes limits of aircraft parking

Express Staff Writer

Private jets line the tarmac at Friedman Memorial Airport during the annual Allen & Co. conference. Photo by Mountain Express

Airports in resort communities are accustomed to fluctuations in air traffic. High seasons and holiday weekends can mean near-constant activity. Low seasons bring a quieter hum to the terminal.

Friedman Memorial Airport is seeing an influx of jets for this week's Allen & Co. retreat, held annually in Sun Valley. But airport staff say they are ready for the busy week, as it is just one of many busy periods the airport sees.

"Undeniably, the first two weeks in July do bring an exceptional increase in air traffic to the airport," airport Manager Rick Baird said. "However, it's not the only time of year when those circumstances present themselves. All the tenants, service providers and staff on the airport are accustomed to increased air traffic at FMA at different times throughout the year."

Baird said he doesn't know how many aircraft are coming and staying, or coming and dropping off, prior to the Allen & Co. event.

"As a matter of security, we are also particularly discerning with regard to detailed aircraft information prior to the event," he said.

Because Friedman is a public airport, aircraft operations are accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis, Baird said.

"We've never had to turn aircraft away," he said, "although we've been right to the brink."

Baird said planning for the event begins months in advance. Arrangements include having additional aircraft fuel, ground transportation and security. A large number of temporary personnel also are hired for the event.

He said multiple aviation agencies work to ensure a smooth and effective process.

"Here again, Friedman Airport experiences periods of high traffic volume like this several times during the year, and we are effectively oriented in accommodating it," he said. "[The Federal Aviation Administration] initiates special traffic-handling procedures so that all aircraft can be assured of their ability to operate into and out of FMA in a timely manner, as they do during other periods of time at the airport, such as the Christmas holidays and Presidents Day weekend."

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