Wednesday, February 1, 2012

All talk, needs action

The future of Friedman Memorial Airport is floundering in interminable discussions that are leading nowhere.

With each new public meeting, the discussions about the airport become more like a version of the movie "Groundhog Day," in which every day repeats the day before.

Comments in the first airport meeting before the Hailey City Council under Mayor Fritz Haemmerle's new administration were predictable, though cooler business heads were more numerous than in last year's sessions.

The discussion swung around and around with comments like "the airport is important" and "changes will have consequences." They were comments that have been heard by one set of public officials after another.

The situation is becoming a mockery of public participation and the hard-working citizens who are concerned about the airport and want a solution. Despite their best efforts, they've been provided little solid information on real options.

Still silent is the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency that halted a relocation process late last summer because of unexpected and skyrocketing costs of construction and mitigation of impacts on declining populations of sage grouse.

The FAA is apparently waiting for locals to tell it what they want, but it's left everyone in the dark. The Sun Valley area is in desperate need of some multiple-choice options.

But even the options can't be formed without answers to a lot of questions about what would be necessary to pull the existing airport into compliance for frequent landings of regional jets—the aircraft of choice for commercial airlines today.

Would it be necessary to condemn existing light-industrial and residential areas and acquire them for the airport? Must the runway be extended farther south? Would all of Hailey and Bellevue become a landing zone?

Would expansion be futile if commercial airlines fail to adopt expensive technology that allows planes to fly at a lower altitude on approach in bad weather?

Are there major problems, geographic or economic, that would prevent relocating the airport to a site near Fairfield instead of the troubled site south of Timmerman Hill near state Highway 75?

People need answers and options before they can form intelligent positions or weigh in on potential options.

They can't draw their own blueprints. They need research done by professional engineers and aviation specialists. They need help understanding the care and feeding of regional jets. They need fewer tail-chasing exercises and more action.

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