Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Aborted landing by Airport Authority?

When the FAA suspended the environmental impact study on the proposed airport replacement Site 10A, it seems the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority decided it missed its one approach for a relocated airport, pulled up its landing gear and diverted from the master plan.

Yes, it's possible that the greater sage grouse will be given protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2016, and yes, the cost of building the replacement airport as designed might be prohibitive. Neither is a reason to abandon plans that will provide long-term solutions for our valley.

Expansion of Friedman Memorial Airport is not a solution. An extended runway will not solve the weather-related reliability challenges, nor would a realigned runway, and neither would provide the required width.

In an effort to improve weather-related reliability, the Airport Authority is working with G.E. Aviation to design a required navigational performance (RNP) for the airport. They've studied landing approaches from the north and believe the installation and implementation of the RNP system at Friedman could allow a minimum approach ceiling of 305 feet and improve reliability for Horizon flights to nearly 99 percent.

Yet SkyWest, currently bringing in 70 percent of the commercial flights, will not be installing the RNP equipment—an indication that the RNP Yankee approach is not the solution.

The Airport Authority needs to work on a long-term solution to the challenges faced by Friedman Memorial, and the only answer is a replacement airport. It's time it requested the resumption of the EIS, look for alternate sites, and as Donna Taylor (former FAA representative) stated, revisit the design.

The Wood River Valley needs a reliable airport and the Airport Authority should show leadership decisions that will meet future demands.

Sheryl Schowengerdt


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